The Hike

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I hiked at Taylors Falls, Minn., on my way to speak at a favorite library in Luck, Wis. It was an after-school event, so I had plenty of time to hike on the way to Luck. I have a long history with Taylors Falls. My family used to go there for Sunday afternoon picnics.

After church, we would jump in the car, stop for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and head to the St Croix River. After lunch, my Mom would relax while my Dad, sister, brother and I headed off to rock climb. My dad would bring just a regular clothesline rope along. Although we had no idea how to use the rope, it made us feel like real rock climbers.

We would hike around until we got to a big steep rock area high above the river. My Dad named one of the steep rocks, Mr. Slips. It was scary, and it seemed that if we made one wrong step, we’d slip over the edge. When we tackled Mr. Slips with the clothesline tied to each other (never thinking that if one of us fell, we’d all go over the cliff), we felt victorious. Then we would hike back down and jump into the river. We all decided it was not a good idea to tell Mom about Mr. Slips!

The boyfriend challenge

As we grew up, boyfriends were invited on our picnics. My dad liked to test them out on Mr. Slips. He seemed to enjoy it when a boyfriend couldn’t handle the climb. We think it was his way of weeding out the ones he didn’t like!
top of the world
Barry came on one of these picnics when we were first dating. Barry did great on Mr. Slips. He passed with flying colors. He was here to stay! I think Barry really enjoyed that first picnic because when he was growing up he suffered through his parents’ divorce twice. His family also moved around a lot and never found the time for lazy picnics on a Sunday afternoon. I realize now that part of my attraction to Barry (besides the fact that he was so cute) was being able to give him a family to hang out with. Soon Barry and I were heading down to Taylors Falls on our own to hike, canoe and picnic. I look back on those summer days with an ache in my heart — we were worry-free, young and in love!Now 38 years later, I was trying to find Mr. Slips by myself on a misty fall day. Since Barry’s frontotemporal dementia (FTD) diagnosis, I have mostly avoided participating in anything happy from our past because it is just too difficult.

But it was a good hike and I covered lots of ground. There were quite a few hikers out — mostly older couples having a nice day together, which always makes me feel really mad at FTD. I never found Mr. Slips that day, but after hiking I sat in the picnic area thinking about all the good times I had had there. And it felt okay to remember. I also decided that it’s time to bring granddaughter Charlotte to Taylors Falls for a hike and a picnic!

Check out Interstate Park at Taylor Falls! http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/interstate/index.html

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  1. Jean Spielman Housh says:

    You write so poignantly about the losses the care-giving or not-sick spouse must endure. My new mantra: Parkinson’s Disease is horse shit. And in your case: FTD is double horse shit. We are in Florida (escaping the cold/snow/ice of Mpls) but my husband Allen has bungled up so many things. All create additional and unwanted hassles for me. I am ripping his computer out of the wall upon our return home. He changed our rental car agreement with National. Instead of the 9 weeks rental we obtained months ago, he’s got us switching cars. Egad. We did it yesterday and now guess where the garage door opener for our villa is? In a rental car bound for Tampa.
    I realize these are all workable, solvable problems.
    Our good friends and FL next-door neighbors (reason we are here) Bruce and Jan, own and through them we arranged this rental, anyway he also has PD. He fell Sunday evening and broke his hip. He had ortho surg to replace the ball of his hip yday. He’ll be in hospital for 3-4 days then rehab down here in FL for 3-4 weeks.
    So it was uplifting to read about your hike today. Keep up the good work. You are a beautiful artist and your writing ain’t bad either. Lunch/coffee is on me in late April when I return to the tundra of MN. Jean Spielman Housh

  2. Nancy – thanks again for sharing these stories. You are making me think a lot more about the need to enjoy every moment of the present.

  3. Maryanne says:

    Love this post! Thanks for your courage.

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