A Shared Path, Past and Present
Story and Photos by Karen Ollis
One of my favorite recreational activities is walking. Weather can be an issue frequently but exercising in a natural setting just feels good to me. When we get the first warm weekend temperatures it brings people out of hibernation with huge smiles on their faces. Some are walking, others jogging and there are those riding bicycles. With the variety I encounter on the trails I often wonder, who some of these people are and what's their story.
Earlier this Spring on weekends I encountered the same two men several times. We would exchange niceties, “Hi I’m Ray and I’m Jeff”. Turns out Ray now retired from the Cleveland Police Department, is exercising to get back in shape from two hip replacements. Jeff also retired, is Ray’s dear friend and accompanies Ray each day for his walk. Ray uses the hiking sticks just to make sure he has good traction and prefers the flat surface of the towpath.
Finding the friendship endearing, I continued to chat with both men each time I encountered them. In doing so, I found out that Ray had recently lost his wife of many years to cancer. He had begun walking as a coping mechanism to the stress of her illness which lasted over two years. Jeff, along at his side was there for Ray for more than just walking. These are men that don’t talk about feelings as much as allow space for silence when necessary. They have an understanding of what it is to be men in their generation.
Jeff and Ray’s wives had become good friends from the time their children played hockey together and the husbands also developed one. It’s the kind of friendship that transcends the stages and ages of life that many relationships don’t. The children grown and gone onto their own lives, Jeff still married and Ray now by himself, their friendship a testament and glue to the many chapters of life.
When I happened upon Ray on a different day, it was not Jeff with him but Ray’s brother. I captured a few photos and asked Ray if I could use them in an article… Ray said that he rather not as it was the first time his brother walked with him.
Ray declared, “Jeff is my walking partner.”
Ray is loyal and especially to those who reflect that prized value to him. Jeff certainly has on a daily basis been there for Ray. It’s not to say siblings aren’t important but sometimes we find those people with an intrinsic quality of connection. It spans the years and circumstances of life where you know you are understood without words and you are not alone. Ray and Jeff literally walk a path together.
So no matter what you do for work, if you have a friendship like this you are enriched and can feel more grounded. Some experience this in marriage, others with relatives and those like Ray and Jeff find a buddy. Regardless of where or how it happens, connection can make life far more meaningful. In a world that seems to only get crazier by the day, we all need connection that we can depend on. Cheers to the friendships on the path.