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This old bloke, now in the latter half of his eighties, suffers, as do a number of his mates, from the debilitating affliction known as peripheral neuropathy. The painful joints and legs he can deal with, Tylenol being an adequate reliever, but walking any distance a completely different problem. A matter of balance, the nervous system running down from his spine not carrying the information, causing numbness and tingling in his legs and feet. This requires the use of a walking stick and for any serious escapade the assistance offered by a rollator walker.

Exercise is the answer. When the weather is inclement stretching is about all there is, up-and-down the stairs – seventeen in all – from the hallway to his workroom, the bottom three providing an anchor for the daily stretches – bending, usually accompanied by a Buddhist mantra – namu amida butsu; silently an internal rhythm. On fair-weather days he can be seen trundling down and up the laneway that leads from the road to his house. Years of compacted gravel, the surface uneven, bumpy with rocks, making the journey not the simplest of exercises. He is occasionally observed by his neighbours who encourage his effort. Sometimes he’s caught unawares, his headphones masking the sound of the neighbours approaching vehicles.

Six stops each way on the 500m meter journey. A kilometre all considered. Not bad for an old bloke. At each stop the stretching exercises, back, legs and arms take place on the convenient chair that’s built into the folding walker. The stops: the deaf cat sign, Robert’s vineyard, the abandoned sauna, Nick’s seat at the crossroads, Annie’s greenhouse and finally the mailbox. Not much arriving in the box these days, unless you count utility bills and junk pamphlets as mail. The entire journey takes an hour more or less, the same amount of time as his weekly radio show, providing an opportunity through his Senheiser headphones to check for mistakes, volume levels and the like. The headphones fit nicely over the Baseball cap providing protection from those dangerous ultraviolet rays. The cap sports a Doctor Bonnie Henry button reminding him of the past three years of pandemic isolation. All proceeds from the sale of the button going to a food bank.

Finding a suitable walker for this moderately rugged terrain is a long-winded project. What is required when country lanes are involved is an all terrain rollator, which, considering the number of tottering elderly living in the country, would be readily available. Not so. A distributor for this design of walker – large wheels with tires, disc brakes and possibly three wheels, one in the front two at the back is found in Victoria. So off he goes. The purported distributor is tucked away in a difficult to find back street and seems to only be open Tuesday through Friday for an hour or so a day. No one ever answers the phone. Through the grubby windows a small assortment of walkers can be seen, and in the corner the very machine he is trying to find. That’s as close as he is to be allowed, a look at the machine through an unwashed window. The other suitable walkers are to be found in Scandinavian countries but have no distribution in Canada. I guess there are not enough physically damaged elderly! His original walker, borrowed from the Health Centre, was used daily until he was convinced of its usefulness. Now he “owns” a new bright luminous green Handilite Xpress weighing just 12.6 lbs easy enough to load in the car, even a folding cloth bag attached for carrying the mail.

The kilometre journey takes its toll, wearying him so that he looks forward when reaching home to a cheese sandwich, a pot of tea and then the regular afternoon nap where he reads a chapter or two of his current novel. He’s up to the letter C in his library – “Theft” by Australian writer Peter Carey. An hilarious story of a use -to-be “really famous” painter looking out for his childlike, damaged, volatile younger brother and tangled in an unlikely love story.

A Musical Interlude:
“ShadowWalking” is a sung poem accompanied by guitar. Recorded July 18th, 2023 on my budget-priced Fender FA-15 3/4 steel string guitar. The music was captured with a Shure C- 606 microphone utliising Audacity on my ancient Mac Maverick computer.

End Notes:
This story, in a slightly edited form, appeared previously in The Hornby Island First Edition.

The photographs are from a series titled “Walking Away” – a family album.

I can be reached for comment at: classicimprov@yahoo.ca