LEARN TO WALK ALL OVER AGAIN. The couple at the next table was of a certain age – say mine, younger than radio but older than television – and each had the other completely tuned out. He fiddled with a bowl of something between glances at SportsCenter; she pushed some lettuce around between glances out the window. More was said at my table than theirs and I was by myself. They weren’t mad, not making some point with silence. You can tell. They just had absolutely nothing to say to each other.
There’s an exercise for that, something you can do when you’re not talking.
Dan Conaway’s book, “I’m a Memphian,” a collection of his Memphasis columns, will be published in October.
Take a hike. Together.
If you’re out there alone – seeking inner peace as you pound the pavement running, communing with your MP3 as your dog walks you – it’s good centering exercise for one but does nothing to get two in better shape.
Take the earbuds out, and listen. Take off the running shoes, and slow the pace. Take the phone away, and say hello. Take the dogs if you’d like, and everybody look for chipmunks. Take a little time, and get to know each other. Again.
You have to talk. I’m not talking about the dreaded “we have to talk” that generally precedes somebody packing a bag and somebody calling a lawyer, I’m talking about what you did before the kids got there and what you’ve forgotten how to do since they left. No, not that…talking.
For us, it’s in the morning. No, not that…walking.
We do three miles a day, five days a week, with a different route for each day and it takes us a little under an hour. While we started for fitness reasons, we haven’t been doing it for more than 16 years to maintain our chiseled profiles – we lost the chisel back in the '80s – although it does help. We keep doing it, rain or shine, because it’s a life check, a restart.
In that hour, on those mornings, in those years, we’ve put kids through college, gone through their breakups and heartbreaks, and walked them down aisles and across stages. We’ve planned tonight’s menu and the next trip and the next ten years, and changed all of them. We’ve started new generations and closed companies, and lost everything and found the strength to start all over again. We’ve done life and death, decided who’s picking up the laundry and the milk, and laughed and cried about many things and many of you.
And even though we haven’t forgotten how to fight loud enough to start neighborhood dogs howling, we’ve also remembered each other and the miles traveled.
It’s nice out there. You see seasons come and go. You know all the houses, when school’s in and out, what’s changing and what’s getting painted, what’s different and what’s colorful. You do all of it under the cover of one of the country’s great city canopies, a natural sculpture garden all year, a natural setting for your conversation.
You stay in touch.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m talking walking.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.