Walking Along the Canal

Meeting and Meaning

By Amy Adams

Along the canal

Relief.

A sense of relief washed over me today and I was filled with a gladness as I met one of my favourite souls along the path along the canal. He was missing for several months. No, no one reported him missing, only that he was missing from my life. I don’t even know his name. Every day, he walks slowly and carefully as he steps along the path and the path along the canal is not smooth and easy. Somehow for several months, he continued to move outside of my reality.

He lives on my street. It is a long street, a long city block, long enough that it changes its name. Both parts of the street share a commonality, they are named for songbirds and there is even a legend and a song about the songbirds that climb in flight towards the sun.

Me and my girls (aka the princess dogs) even trekked past there several times through the winter and early spring and, each time I wondered where is my friend whose name is unknown.

A walker.

He is a regular walker, but not a regular person, a daily walker who walks a good distance given his circumstances. Many times as we passed his apartment ‘bloc,’ my thoughts turned to worry and wonder but not wonder in a good way. Wondering if he was still alive. He’s older. Wondering was he now sick? He previously has had a stroke. If he was sick, wondering if someone was taking care of him? Does he have children? They would be grown now. Does someone come to visit him regularly? I thought if I knew his name I could ring his apartment bell and that maybe he wouldn’t mind a visit or simply some homemade cookies during the cold winter.

He told me that he had a problem with his brain.

When we first met, it was obvious that he had some challenges, after all, he was walking with a cane. He told me that he had a problem with his brain. He tells me most times that we meet that he has a problem with his brain. Is it a sense of shame? That he remembers who he once was or who he doesn’t think he is anymore? What compels him to say it out loud. Does he feel that he is a shadow of his former self? I never knew that former self, that personality, that person who I learned was a well-known world-class athlete and greatly admired.

Does he know he is still admired? Does he know that he makes a difference in people’s lives? in my life?

He doesn’t know that I didn’t know he was a former world class athlete since I didn’t grow up here and, he doesn’t know that I know either, his younger neighbour told me so. It wasn’t a gossipy thing, there was pride in his voice, his neighbour loved and admired him. You could see it on his face as he told me the story. You could hear the sense of loss in the tone of his voice the deep sadness for the collective who lost a public role model. It wasn’t pitying. It was his own sadness.

He doesn’t know my name and I don’t know his.

My friend along the walking path doesn’t even know that when we met along the walking path some years ago, that during that time, I was suffering over my suffering and that I felt like a shadow of my former self. That time was a cluster-fuck of ‘stuff’ – the end of a relationship, my poison emotions became physical and my body was not well, it was poisoning itself. His smile and warm greeting along the path reminded me during that painful period when my shoulders were slouched and I felt alone, that I mattered and was needed on this earth, at least for a little while. He made that time more bearable and he doesn’t even know that either.

My face lights up when I see him along the path, it can’t be helped. He may think that he is simply stopping to have a conversation, but it’s more to me than he will ever know. Sharing a simple conversation each time we have met along the path, if only for a moment to stop and wish me a beautiful day or his encouragement to continue to walk. These small moments have such deep meaning for me. He doesn’t know my name and I don’t know his, but in the end, he tells me ‘Yes, we must continue to move.’ The unspoken words whisper in my mind – yes, we must continue to move even when it isn’t easy.