Sleep abandoned me at about 3am. I fussed, fretted, played solitaire, rolled, wriggled and then suddenly thought of getting up to see the sun rise. Often I think of going out exploring when I wake in the night, but the warmth of my bed usually stills me- this time I got up and followed the thought.
10 minutes later the pup and I were kicking clouds of mist and dew to oblivion on the river bank. I thought of how much dad would have loved to be with me, watching the rising sun paint the sky and feeling the crisp kiss of early air.
We walked together so many times, a long stride got to be our special place to spend time. Dad was determined to carry on his affair with the hills and the sky even up until his last days. When he could no longer walk, he drove. When he could no longer drive, he was driven. It was a love he would just not give up on, even though he hated having to be hauled around like a hefty handbag!
One day when he was still driving, I asked him if he could drop me up on the mountain top so I could walk down again and try a new route. The path I took wound down through still forests to a bowl between the arms of the mountain, where a little lake was tucked away from sight. The beauty of it took my breath away and then, like today, I was a little sad that dad was not with me. I felt that tug of beauty that is a almost like a kind of loss when it can’t be shared.
After more than an hour or so of walking, lost in my thoughts, the stomp of my feet and the slide of the greens, I rejoined the narrow winding road that led down the final few miles. After a minute or so dad drove round the a turn in the road, grinning triumphantly out the car window.
He’d been driving up and down, and up and down the miles of road ever since he left me, trying to see what I was seeing, hoping to catch me and share a bit more of my little adventure though he could no longer walk it. Even as I was missing him he’d been close by – probably been less than half a mile from me all along the route, hidden behind trees, hedges and the curve of the land.
When I thought back to dad’s smiling toughness, those little actions that were his refusal to quit living even as his life dropped inevitably away, I missed him even more out on my dawning morning walk. With a little self-conscious hope, I thought to myself, ‘maybe he’s following me down the river, looking for me from somewhere just out of sight, over a hedge or behind some cloud.. waiting to chat about all of this when we meet again’. So I started my day with the rising sun and a smile.