On the Move

Bertie On the Breakers

Bertie On the Breakers

My eighty four year old father has amazing stamina. He long ago instilled in me a love of walking. Always an extremely active person, he began serious walking after my mother’s death at the age of fifty five. Then it was his way of dealing with grief, taking himself off out into the country that surrounded our village, walking with and through the loss. What started as a coping strategy became a much loved way of life.

By the time he reached his sixties, he was walking up to thirty miles in a day. I would often go with him, my love of landscape and nature informed by those walks.

We still walk together, a precious and joyful part of our relationship. Despite his age, he can manage impressive distances. This year we are entering ‘Walk the Wight’, part of the Island’s walking festival, a sponsored twenty three miles for the Island Hospice. Ten thousand people entered last year. There is an option to walk the full twenty three, or alternatively you can walk one of two halves. Dad – irrepressible as ever – felt keen to do the full length of the Island. I felt a little embarrassed to admit that the distance would probably leave me lame and raving with exhaustion given my current form; it’s not good for the morale to be out gunned by your octaganerian parent.  He took pity on me and kindly agreed to settle for fourteen miles and proceeded to train with an inspiring gusto, walking eighteen miles of the South Down’s Way to get in the swing. I on the other hand walked nine miles on the flat and ended up exhasuted in the pub with my head propped on the table, wondering how I was going to make the last two miles home! As I grow older, I am beginning to appreciate just how extraordinary his physical achievements actually are.

He has always stressed to me the value of movement; taught me that age need not be a crippling decline. For Dad, keeping the mind and body flowing, remaining interested and engaged with life, has meant that the years have been incredibly kind to him. Long may this be so.

One of the great joys of living on the Island is how lovely it has been to walk here with Dad. He loves it: the challenge enlivens him; the beauty of the place fuels him. After walking each inch of his own locale, knowing it so intimately, I could see how much this new territory fired his enthusiasm; new horizons can make us all feel youthful and energised, no matter what our age.

None of us know what will befall us in life; perhaps we will not all be as fortunate in our experience of aging. However, my Dad’s energy and fitness, his enjoyment of each day, keeps me feeling that the passing of time is its own adventure. My aim is to keep moving, in mind, body, emotion and spirit and – with a little grace – I hope I too will be ‘Walking the Wight’ for many years to come.


1 Comment

  1. trish said,

    May 4, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    fantatstic, puts me to sahme xx

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