On my morning walk through the streets of Herzliya, I was welcomed by the sight and scent of the budding trees and flowers. The fragrance of the few remaining orange blossoms lingered in the air. And of course, nostalgia swept me into the world of the past.
The talker and the walker. That was how Mom and Dad frequently described themselves. How right they were! My mother could walk into any room or shop, sit on any bus or bench and within ten minutes she would know all about the woman standing or sitting next to her. The other may have shared some personal information about herself, but Mom would have quickly assumed her real role, that of the talker. The other would be barraged by facts (well, maybe somewhat embellished) accompanied by countless photos of at least three generations of her family. Who had just gotten married, plus pictures, who had given birth, plus pictures, who had graduated (at least cum laude) plus pictures and of course who was just beautiful, handsome, brilliant and successful, plus pictures.
The nylon bag, not even a Ziploc, was an essential part of any outing from the house. It took up far more space than our conveniently carried galleries on today’s phones. It was readily accessible so that any and all could follow the family history with a kind of primitive, portable PowerPoint presentation. While all this was going on, Dad would either be sitting next to her reading a book or walking.
Dad was a walker, even before it was fashionable to walk, to power walk, to walk for health or to walk for the environment. Wherever he was he walked. While Mom would labor over what to buy at the supermarket or begin one of her supermarket conversations, Dad could be seen walking through the aisles, occasionally glancing at the shelves. When Mom’s pictures were returned to their nylon bag, she would suddenly become aware that Dad was nowhere to be seen. Since there were no mobile phones, communication had to be conducted somewhat differently. The cries of “Sam! Sam! Where are you?” echoed through the aisles, bouncing off the tins of tuna fish and sour pickles. When I was with them, I would duck behind the furthest aisle pretending to be not even remotely related.
My father continued his walking well into his 90’s when as a widow he was living in an assisted living facility in Ra’anana. One day, I got a rather hysterical phone call from a cousin who also lived in Ra’anana. “Janet, I saw your father walking around the town.” Now Meir rarely called me, so I assumed it was to tell me how happy he was to run into my father. No, that was not the case. I responded that I am sure my father was very happy to meet him. But Meir persisted, “No, you don’t understand. He was walking.” I told him my father had stopped driving many years before, so he frequently walked. Meir was not one to let go of his concern and added, “No, he was alone so I followed him to see if he was all right.” No doubt, Meir had a lovely walk that day, and yes my father was fine, just taking a walk.
Today, when I visit their graves at the Herzliya cemetery, I usually walk there as a homage to my father. And of course, as I stand by their graves, I make sure to do a lot of talking, filling them in on all the doings of their family. May the walker and talker rest in peace.