When a friend heard my father was going to join me on my upcoming Camino, she said, “So your father is in good shape, then.”
“Um . . . not exactly,” I said, “He eats donuts for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch.”
“So is he pretty active at least?” she asked. I pause. “He definitely has a lot of energy,” I say, thinking to my husband Michael’s description of my father: I wouldn’t say he’s like a monkey on crack, but just a little bit less than that.
It is true that when dad’s awake, it’s rare that he’s not moving. This is the man who never took a cab in all our visits to New York City. “Forty blocks? We can walk that!” At which point he’d take off like we were in a power walking competition. Except that was his natural pace.
“So have you got him on a training program?” she asks. “Well, about that. . . A few weeks ago, he was opening the pool for the season and fell in. He did something to his foot in the process. Ended up having to wear a boot for a while. Mom told me about the lovely blue and purple color his foot turned. And about the blood that would pool at the bottom of it because he wouldn’t follow the doctor’s order to stay off of it.”
When my mother was telling me about the “pool incident” my dad was, at that moment, in the backyard with a neighbor putting together an outdoor gazebo. He was wearing the boot, at least. But certainly not following doctor’s orders.
“Well, I can cancel all the hotel reservations up to two days in advance,” I told my mother.
“Oh, no, you won’t have to do that,” she said. “He’s definitely going. Even if he can’t walk. He really just wants to see what it’s like and meet all the people. He’d be fine just sitting in a square all day talking to everyone.” I think about this. Despite all the aforementioned activity my father engages in, there is one time per year my dad does some serious sitting: On vacation. At Canoe Island Lodge. He begins the day eating in the lodge, moves to a deck chair to read a book or talk with friends in the shade, moves to the sailboat where he takes up his post in the front corner of the starboard side bench, where he promptly falls asleep (he doesn’t sail the boat–this is the kind of place that pays people to do that for him), then he returns in time to sit down for lunch, and then repeats the reading/sailing/sleeping/eating routine until bed. (His employees don’t believe me when I tell them how he spends his vacation. “He sits? You mean he sits still? And reads? For hours?!” This is a side of him his employees never see.)
Now I realize a man can’t stay standing all of his waking non-vacation hours. There are a few instances per day when Dad sits.
- When he’s driving. But only because we haven’t yet gotten to the point that one can drive while standing.
- When he eats. Sometimes. But if he’s actively engaged in conversation during said meal, he’s waving his arms around like any good Italian. Thus even when sitting, he exerts lots of energy.
- When he’s on a serious phone call–by which I mean one in which he’s placing an ice cream order or trying to resolve an issue with a bill he’s received for his Dairy Queen. In which case he sits hunched over with both elbows on a desk, holding the phone to his ear with one hand, holding his head in the other, saying something like, “Let me speak to your manager’s manager.” (For a long time there was a rumor that when he calls Pepsi and they pull up his account, it says, “Give this man whatever he wants. Don’t argue with him. We’ll fix it later.” A friend later went to work for Pepsi and confirmed this was indeed the case. Except the language is a little stronger.)
But the question remains: Does Dad have enough energy to walk twelve to fifteen miles per day for seven consecutive days? Some may think I’m trying to kill my 71-year-old dad by requiring this amount of exertion (by “some” I mean my sister Jessica, who asked me the other day if this trip is a plot created by my mother and I to get Dad’s life insurance money). Let me be clear: Dad wanted to do this trip. There was no cajoling on my part. When asked, I’ve always confirmed that he could indeed physically manage to do it. Mainly because I’ve met 87-year-old men walking the Camino. And if they can do it, I imagine my father can.
And no, I don’t require twelve to fifteen miles per day, either. I initially planned that Dad and I would do ten miles per day max. But when I told him this one night last month the conversation went something like this:
Dad: Only ten miles? I thought we were walking 100 miles in a week!
Me: I thought we were doing 100 kilometers. (60 miles)
Dad: How far do you usually walk every day when you go?
Me: Twelve to fifteen miles.
Dad: Then that’s what we’re doing.
I’m consoled by the fact that there are companies that will carry our packs from town to town. And if we’re sick of walking, usually one can find alternative transportation to get to their destination. And we’re only walking together for a week, so really, how much training does one need? On July 10, we’ll find out.