The Loneliness of a Long Distance Walker
When I’m not working, especially at the weekend, I like to switch off. I can do that now that my son has flown the nest and no longer needs me to run him around or do his washing (well, not often!)
I must admit, sometimes it is lonely not being a hands-on mum anymore. I miss Ben terribly, but there are some benefits. I can relax. My smart clothes and heels are swapped for sweat pants and trainers. I get outside and walk. I love being outside – and I don’t care if it rains.
For 20 years I was a runner. But with a “knackered knee”, as fellow knee sufferers describe it, I took up walking instead alongside spinning on a bike in the gym. The offending knee has in fact healed nicely, and it has been strengthened with constant exercise of the leg muscles, but if I start running again it would likely need surgery.
In summer, I walk as much and as far as I can. I don’t just amble, but walk as fast as possible using the Walk Activ technique, which is akin to a full body workout. I walk in the style of being on a cross trainer and, for me, it is as much of a workout as running. My son Ben has seen me and describes my walking as “going for a march”.
It’s a way too of clearing my mind. A lot happens to me in the course of a week, during which I rarely have time to stop. I am usually travelling around the country: visiting each of the offices, seeing and advising clients, checking the performance of each office and currently discussing the progress of a fourth office that will open shortly. That doesn’t include writing the blog and appearing on TV. It’s very exciting but I never know for sure what questions I will have to deal with, so I have to spend a lot of time researching around the topic. You think you know your topic, but brain freeze can happen so I check, double-check and triple-check! Thus I find that by walking in the fresh air, on my own, I can mentally download everything that’s happened in the week and get it all out of my mind. I return energised, relaxed and ready for another week that will no doubt be equally tough.
So last Saturday I decided to do a seven-mile walk and set off marching, heading for Roundhay Park in north Leeds. My parents moved there after we children left home and still have an apartment in the centre of Roundhay Park, but now live with my sister Aunty Doo Doo.
My mum hasn’t been back to her home for nearly a year because she is too unwell and I haven’t been to their apartment since then either. I walked a long route to the park and found myself magnetically drawn towards their block, which looked from a distance to be as pretty as it always was – with a commanding view over Hill 60 to one side and down over the Great Lake, with its hills and beech trees, to the golf course in the distance.
As I walked nearer I looked up to their particular apartment and imagined seeing my mum at the kitchen window, where she always seemed to be standing whenever I drove up to visit. I imagined her smiling face at the window but of course she wasn’t there. Neither was my dad, who also used to stand at the next window, by the dining area. They would both wave to see me in, and out again when I left. Now it was empty and deserted. There was no one at either window, and I had only bitter sweet memories.
It felt very sad and lonely as I was idiotically marching past, and I kept telling myself everything moves on. Time doesn’t stand still. Things change. It wasn’t much comfort. I longed to see my parents there, happy and well again just for a moment, although I knew it wasn’t going to happen not then, not ever.
But then I noticed something in the dining area that startled me. I could just see the outline of candlesticks on the table. So I went nearer. Yes, there was a simple pair of candlesticks on the table. They were kept elsewhere and would be moved to the dining table to be lit on Friday night by my mother to welcome the start of the Sabbath. The candles are a sign of a home filled with warmth and love. But no one was living there – so who moved the candlesticks to the table?
I guessed straight away. I knew very well who had put those candlesticks on the table. Someone who would want to continue the tradition, out of respect and love for my mother and their home. A tradition that his mother – my grandmother – also followed every week in her home without fail. It was of course my dad.
I can’t begin to describe how much love I felt for my parents at that moment. How incredibly welcoming those simple candlesticks on the table were to me, from outside in the park, and how much better I felt seeing them. Their apartment wasn’t empty after all. It was as welcoming and filled with love as always. I marched on as my eyes filled with tears…
Later in the afternoon I visited my parents. My eighty-year-old Dad reached over to hold my mum’s hand when I put the question to him.
“Yes it was me” he said. “I do it every week. I’ve been well trained”. Mum and Dad both smiled. They never, ever give up.
They don’t talk – they do.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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