Harold Takes a Walk

Getting old, said Bette Davis, is not for sissies. Aging is a transcendental experience in that it forces one to go beyond themselves. And going beyond the self can be fatiguing. In recent years, there’s been an increase in coming of age books for the elderly. For example, Rachel Joyce’s THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY.

One Tuesday morning, Harold receives a letter from Queening Hennessy. Queenie is dying of cancer and just wanted to say good-bye to her ex-colleague. When someone writes that they are dying, it’s a letter you can’t ignore. But Harold is not good at expressing himself. So after several attempts at writing letters that only end up crumpled and thrown in the bin, he winds up writing Queenie two stiff lines then tells his wife he’s going to post his letter. Once outside the front door, Harold just starts walking and can’t stop.

To discover the world, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

Harold, a “tall man who moved through life with a stoop, as if expecting a low beam, or a screwed up paper missile, to appear out of nowhere,” was not a walker. But“now that he’d accepted the slowness of himself, he took pleasure in the distance he covered.” And this acceptance of the aging self is obligatory if you want to enjoy what remains of your life.

In the autumn Harold’s wife, Maureen, used to wear fallen leaves in her button hole. The couple had lost a child years before and the pain, despite the passing of much time, still lingered. But, says Maureen, the “difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and you keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk around it.”

Harold and Maureen, like many married couples, had at a certain point chosen to pursue loneliness even though “being alone required such constant effort”. But Harold’s walk had provoked the couple back to the present where “beginnings could happen more than once.”

And with this thought I’ll start my day.

-30-

About Art for Housewives

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