Dave fiddled with his phone while John locked the front door. Dave said, “Here, hang on a sec and I’ll turn this on.”
Turning toward the street John inhaled deeply, filled his cheeks with air and then exhaled forcefully. Looking to his right he studied the sky above the buildings’ rooftops. He thought that the sky appeared to be lightening but he could detect no band of red indicating an imminent sunrise. “Did I mention how much I enjoy not only the cold of Chicago but also the length of darkness?”
“Not yet today,” his dad said, slipping the phone into his jogging suit’s jacket pocket, “but yes, many times. It all equals out in the end you know. Ready?”
As Dave spoke a feminine voice stated, “Workout paused.”
“Sure,” John replied, nodding his head. “It all equals out in the end, but the sun’s always up before seven in NOLA and it never goes down before five. Chicago sunrise can be as late as 7:20 and sundown as early as 4:20. I checked. Four twenty! Yuck.”
John added, “Why is your pocket talking to us?”
Dave coughed a laugh as he patted his jacket pocket. “It’s a workout app called S Health? I tell it how far I want to go and it keeps tabs on my progress. Distance, time, average pace. Deb likes to see what I’ve done each day. Says it keeps me honest.”
John smirked and said, “Okay then. Head right.”
The phone declared, “Workout resumed.”
“How far are we going?” Dave asked. “I put in four miles.”
“Four miles!?” John exclaimed as they stepped off the front stoop and walked down the short section of frost-thrusted sidewalk that led from the house to the street. “Okay. No problem. It’s just that I wasn’t kidding when I said the church is close. Close like a half mile? Maybe we’ll head over to Saint Paul’s first.”
“Just so long as we go about four miles. And that we’re home around seven thirty. Don’t want to get Joni upset; do we?”
“No. We don’t. She’s got a lot to deal with, huh? So we have about an hour and you want to walk four miles. Shouldn’t be a problem. Follow me, old man,” John commanded, turning right at the sidewalk and picking up the pace.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Dave said. “I thought we established that according to your criteria we both qualify as middle aged?”
“No. I believe that’s according to your criteria. According to mine I’m middle-aged and you, dearest Padre, are old. But either way, even if we use your 88 as our end point rather than my 76, then you’re late middle-aged and I’m early.”
“Give it time,” Dave answered, stepping in front of his son and lengthening his stride while increasing his cadence. “It may be true that only the good die young but only the lucky die old. Come on, boy!” he declared, “If we don’t average at least four miles an hour your mother’ll have my ass for breakfast.”
“Uck! Thanks for that picture.”
The walk down 136th Street was short. John gave a small, from the wrist only, hand wave to a man standing at the bus stop at the corner of Indiana Avenue while Dave elected to declare a strong, “Good morning.” In return the young man waiting there looked up from his phone, raised and lowered his eyebrows and gave the pair a microscopic head bob.
John was leading from behind and he told Dave to go right at the intersection. Indiana, though still far from a major city artery, was not a residential street. The sidewalk was wider and had fewer weather related irregularities. As the pair headed south John said, “You know, I never really thought about what it must have been like for you to lose your parents. I just thought about my own grief. Now that Joni’s an orphan I’ve realized how hard that must have been on you.”
Dave nodded, glanced at his son, shrugged his left shoulder and said, “Yes. Yes, it certainly was. Grandma died when you were what? A freshman? And then Dad died when you were a junior? I’d hardly expect you to understand what it’s like to lose your parents at that age, buddy.
“Hell’s bell I didn’t really get how rough it was on your mother when Pop-pop Joe died. It’s just devastating.
“And for me it was even worse when Grandpa died than when Grandma did. I don’t know if that’s because, as you said, I was now an orphan, or if I just identify more with my dad than with my mom but either way it was super tough.
“I’m proud of you for realizing that without having gone through it yet yourself. I’m proud of you in a lot of ways, buddy. So’s Mom.”
“Oh, stop,” John said softly.
Dave did. He turned to his son and said, “No. Really. We are. And we really hope that you’re going to get back on track now. It’s a turning point. A hard turning point, but there it is.”
Dave’s phone declared, “Work out paused.”
“Huh. Guess we’d better keep moving, huh?” Dave said in response to the phone’s prompt.
They continued southward on Indiana and he added, “And it’s gotta be extra hard on Joni with her parents so young and all. Speaking of which, is she taking care of herself?”
John replied, “That’s a good question, and it’s one that I can’t answer. But I will, going forward. Maybe she needs that S Health thing that keeps nagging you from your pocket, hmm?” John twisted his head to the left, looking over his shoulder, “Cross here, will you? We’re taking that diagonal up there.”