I take the kids for a walk around our neighborhood 5 or 6 nights a week. There are 9 city parks with playgrounds within a mile of our house and we’ve been to every one. (If that’s not enough play equipment, there are 2 elementary school playgrounds within a mile as well, and if you need a few more parks there are 3 other city parks within a mile of us that don’t have any play equipment.)
I took the kids to one of the parks with a pond the other night and surprised them with a loaf of bread to feed the ducks. After leaving the ducks happy, they headed to the playground. Between the mosquitoes and the number of kids at the playground, I corralled my kids back into the stroller and headed to a quieter park tucked away in a neighborhood.
Sure enough, we were the only ones at the next park and the kids had free reign. While pushing them in the swings we got to singing a song. Sometime during the song I noticed an older man walking down the road. Each step he took was deliberate and he needed a cane for assistance.
As we finished the song, I noticed that the man had started walking towards us. He remarked on what a nice evening it was and how nice it was to see the kids using it since the park doesn’t get used enough. We introduced ourselves and made small talk.
His name was Milt and he lived in the home next door to the park. He’s the original owner of the home, built in 1969 and one of the last in that neighborhood when it was being developed. He spent his career as a piano salesman for Schmitt Music and raised his kids in Burnsville after moving there from St. Louis Park. He asked where I was from and I told him.
A few minutes into our conversation he remarked again how nice it was to see kids using the equipment and that it didn’t get used enough. A few minutes later he repeated that thought a third time. He also asked three times during our conversation where I was from.
I was glad to meet Milt. It’s always fun to meet a neighbor and learn a bit about what brought them to the city, why they’ve stayed, and what they do with their lives.
But I was a little sad too as I watched Milt walk away.
It’s tough to see what age can do to the brain and what can (and likely will) happen to us both physically and relationally. Milt’s kids are gone and he was walking alone, suffering from what appeared to be dementia.
I decided to take away something positive from the interaction: Milt is still making a point of getting out there, taking a walk, and meeting his neighbors. That’s a lot more than can be said for most of my peers.