Counting Comfort Not Pain

I was walking the track on a picture-perfect day, blue sky, not too hot, no humidity,  enjoying the day yet feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I’ve been working out on this track for over three years since discovering it’s the ideal exercise for me, combining cardio, strength training and scream therapy as I sing and dance my way around the track, lap after lap, losing myself in the rhythm as I enjoy the beauty of nature around me.  Lately, though, all I’ve noticed are the pains I’ve developed from the same motion I enjoy so much.

It’s bad enough I can no longer swing around or even comfortably carry hand weights since I fell and broke my shoulder two winters ago.  Now I have a rigid joint in my right foot called “hallux rigidus,” which sounds sexy but definitely isn’t, that constantly hurts, although it’s more painful if I don’t walk.  Sometime last summer I developed a pain in my upper left hamstring that kept me from walking at all for months, much longer than I thought it should have taken to heal.  Now I can’t keep pace with the music I once danced along to, and the hamstring acts up well before I want to stop walking.

It all seems so unfair, woe is me and all that.  So I’m walking and reminding myself to focus on tightening my core, at least I can work on a flat stomach even if my legs and arms won’t cooperate.  I see a man joining the walk, someone I’ve seen every summer since I started.  He walks slowly, very slowly.  He wears black knee high socks with his shorts, and I always tease him that it’s hot, he should get white ones, and he always responds these special socks, for his neuropathy, only come in black.  He calls me “young lady” but I think he must notice my gray hair or how I don’t bounce around like I once did.

I slow down to greet him and mention how annoyed I feel that I can’t do what I used to.  He tells me he has to walk every day or else his legs get stiff.  He had total knee replacement four years ago and doesn’t want to go through that again.  Then he tells me as bad as that surgery was, it wasn’t nearly as bad as his bypass or when he had to have a lung removed.  A tumor was found in his lung only by accident when he had a staph infection.  He’s had cancer a few times, the first time cost him a couple of toes — a melanoma that he figures came from a really bad sunburn he once got in college.

He worked as an accountant for 40 years before retiring after his bypass surgery.  I’m seeing him as if for the first time, not as a senior citizen taking daily walks to keep his legs moving, but as a young man laying on the grass in the sunshine and later spending years going to work, fulfilling an important role in some business endeavor.  “I’m 72 now, happy to be here breathing,” he says.

I start to move ahead, on with my walk.  He says something about my “cool sunglasses.”  I answer, walking backwards, that I need them to protect my eyes – glaucoma.  He has that too, he says, but he hasn’t had the surgery yet, his cataracts aren’t bad enough.  I slow back down to tell him I’ve had that surgery, it’s a piece of cake.

He waves as he leaves the track, “I’ve had enough fun for one day.”  Somehow my leg and foot aren’t bothering me quite so much and I comfortably walk another two laps, farther than I’ve gone in awhile.  I suddenly feel very happy to be 61 and walking the track, even if I can’t be dancing it like I used to.  I have to find out if those socks really don’t come in white.