All By Himself

Wil and Woody Walk

“Take Woody for a walk all by myself!”

Katherine recently returned from taking Woody for a walk in our back field, and now Wil wanted his turn. We take Woody on lots of walks together, so I was fairly confident Wil would take the same route. We live on 10 acres which I can see the full of from my back window. But the county land that abuts our property he would most likely also traverse is beyond the window’s view.

Wil has quite a bit of self-motivated independence. He now walks behind the school every morning “all by myself” to his classes line, he hops off the bus after school every day and walks the long length of our country driveway to the house (I used to meet him at the bus’s door), bursts through the door with a “Mom, I’m home!”

So, I conceded this walk “all by myself” with the condition he wore his bright orange vest over his coat so I could easily spot him. He quickly grabbed his hat, gloves and boots, and like a shot, was out the door. A boy and his dog.

As I watched him walk further and further down the field, it was such a strange feeling. Both exhilarating and scary at the same time. For so many years, I’ve been ultra vigilant with Wil because he was always prone to running off when he was younger. He does not take off on a whim like he used to. We can walk through the grocery store without Wil quickly bolting for an Employee Only door or outside. Yet, I still hold his hand tight crossing the street because he quickly forgets the warnings of how cars can badly hurt you in his excitement to get where we are going.

I watched him turn the corner to the county property, and the sight of his orange vest disappear. I will give him some time, I thought, and then, if I don’t see him, I’ll take the 4-wheeler out to meet him.

I washed the dishes, with an almost constant look out the window, no orange vest. Let him go, he’s ok. I decided to vacuum, and I just couldn’t. It was the noise. It blocked my senses too much, as crazy as that may sound. There was no way I could hear Wil way out in that field, but it didn’t matter. I turned off the vacuum, and put it aside for later.

There was still no sight of Wil, so I went out the garage to start the 4-wheeler. It was cold, and it reluctantly started. As soon as I put it in reverse, the engine died. I went to put it in neutral again to start it, but the gear was stuck. “Don’t do this to me now! Come on!” I kept at jiggling that stupid gear shift and it finally clicked into neutral. I started it up again, revved it for a bit, then flew out of the garage in reverse and busted tail down the field.

And, there, rounding the corner to our field, as happy as could be, were a clear to the knees mud covered Wil, and Woody, with his own smile (you can always tell when dogs are smiling). As relief washed over me, I felt a little ridiculous over my nerve-wracked fight with the 4-wheeler moments before.

Wil hopped on the 4-wheeler with me, and off we sped toward home, the dog bolting after us, mud kicking up from his feet, and I felt so incredibly free. We crossed an invisible line that day, both gaining a new perspective in growth.

The next day, Wil asked to take Woody for a walk again “all by myself.” It was easier, though I still had those nagging feelings in the back of my head. Those may never go away, my guess is they just change over time and circumstance.

I wasn’t able to vacuum, but he did make it all the way home before I jumped on the 4-wheeler this time. They both strolled back to the yard, not muddy this time, but no less jovial for the trip of  independence; Wil pink cheeked and Woody looking happily exhausted.

I guess that’s how this getting older thing will be. The push and pull of independence. Wanting to have my hand there to grab hold of his when he needs it. The 4-wheeler, at the ready, just in case. And, the sheer joy that lifts my worried heart when he shows up, pink-cheeked and full of stories and smiles, from his newfound adventure, all by himself.



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