Sunday, October 18, 2015

Forging a New Walking Life

This weekend was wonderful. In a way, it was transformational for me.

It started with the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk (named the Waccamaw Area Heart Walk for our regional version) bright and early on Saturday morning. My wife Allyne and I again helped staff our Mended Hearts chapter's table for heart-surgery survivors.

It always get me pumped up to meet so many people of all ages who have faced their heart challenges and are living life to the fullest. We gave out red Heart Walk caps to adult survivors and superhero capes to kids who have come through their heart surgeries -- our little mended hearts, very special people. It was a joy to see the smiles on their faces when I told them I was giving them superhero capes because they deserve them.

Also pumping me up was all the energy there supplied by the pep band and cheerleaders from our Coastal Carolina University (where the undefeated football team, the "Chanticleers," is No. 1-ranked in the nation in its NCAA division, BTW). And there were the teams of walkers, many of them young people stepping out for a good cause but also many older folks walking in support of people who are fighting the fight, or who have done so bravely.

All that went on between 9 and 10 o'clock, and when they struck up Chubby Checker's "The Twist," it was all I could do to restrain myself from dancing the twist in the public square. That was the one dance I could do well in my college days.

At a little after 10, the Heart Walk set off near the Hard Rock Cafe and down and around the sidewalks in front of the many shops, restaurants, rides, and attractions at the 350-acre Broadway at the Beach, and across the lake with all the fish begging to be fed, and then by Ripley's Aquarium, Margaritaville, and back.

Beforehand, I had worried about whether I could complete this walk again. Ever since the August 8 death of my kindred spirit. Sadie the Superdawg, walking has no longer come naturally. It is as though I have a weight on my shoulders -- and one that slides from side to side, at that, making me feel wobbly. But this time I determined not to accept the invitation to be one of the survivors kicking off the walk, but instead to start at the tag end, and to go slowly -- sitting down on a bench if I needed to do so to feel comfortable.

Moreover, I hauled out of storage an Aspen back brace my orthopedist had given me several years ago to help me deal with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. I had not used it much because it is rather cumbersome, and, okay, maybe my macho side deems it a crutch I should't be seen wearing.

Anyway, it all came together beautifully. I walked the whole course, about 1.5 miles, rather comfortably, and sat on a bench only once. There, I teased a couple of college girls by telling them "no running allowed." They laughed, but then stopped and did hula-hoops for a while before resuming their Heart Walk runs. Such energy -- I can only envy it.

Today, Sunday, I discovered that some of the Heart Walk spirit was still with me. Dasher the big ol' 5-year-old yellow lab was visiting us, and it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn't put Sadie's collar on him, attach a leash, and take him on a walk. He is a big boy -- almost twice Sadie's weight -- and is strong-willed, so I didn't know how it would work out. I wore the back brace again, hoping it might stabilize me against any tugging or lunging by Dash man.

Well, amazingly enough, it worked out pretty well. Dasher did get agitated when another dog being walked by a family approached, but I managed to keep him under control, and when I told him to "sit," he did obey.

So came a revelation: It might well be possible for me to walk Dasher just about every day. It would be a good fitness addition for both of us. So we are going to try.

And I'm already thinking about the 2016 Heart Walk.

                                     © Robert G. Holland 2015

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