Walking Distance

When I was 9 years old I had a favorite paperback book called “Stories from the Twilight Zone”, a book of short stories based on the skin and bones for sketches produced on the TV program of the same name.
I had a favorite called “Walking Distance”, the story of a tired middle aged business man that leaves the big city one weekend and simply drives in an effort to get away from his job and the Rat Race in general.
His car breaks down and he gets towed to a local garage for repairs when he sees a road sign for the town he grew up in years ago.
He asks how far it is to the town and is told, “It’s walking distance.”
He enters the Twilight Zone and walks into his hometown of 40 years ago where his mother and father are still alive.

It’s funny that I was falling for these kinds of tender stories when I was ten.
Yeah, I was a weird kid, huh?
Much of my writing loosely falls into the same sentimental category. Go figure.
I started thinking about the last good day I had with my mother and father, sadly the memory has vanished deep into the recesses of my own scattered mind.
The ‘moment’ did happen though when I came to a realization that I could never get those moments back; accepting the idea was painfully difficult but I knew it had to be done.
It occurred to me that I began saying goodbye to the individual pieces of both of them, various facets of their personalities, phrases they often used and the stories they loved to tell.

I remember fruitlessly trying to pull my mother back into my world with my “remember when” queries that all too quickly lost their magical powers.
If I’ve learned anything at all from their tragic situation it’s that life is about seizing moments, grabbing them by whatever means possible and never ever letting them go.
I only wish I’d realized that fifteen years ago, wish I’d accepted their fates sooner, if that makes sense.
But I’m only human and I desperately wanted to believe otherwise.
If I could have several more hours with both of them it would be spent on the back deck of the Goodbye House’.
It would be a warm but comfortable summer night with nothing but a cricket soundtrack and a deep, orange creamsicle sunset off to the West.
My father would be standing by the grill wearing his signature wrinkled Bermuda shorts (or were they seersucker? God forbid), sans shirt with his pot belly exposed to the world with a can of Busch beer in his hand as he flipped burgers and hot dogs.
My mother would be flitting around the kitchen like some culinary Tasmanian devil putting the finishing touches on one of her ‘signature’ desserts.
We wouldn’t be talking about anything in particular; it would just be like it once was.
But it would be different to me because I would mentally file away and lock every smile, every laugh, and every taste and smell living inside that one bittersweet summer evening.
And I would remember all of it again, if I had one more chance.
Maybe the truth of the matter is that those memories are never very far away; in fact they’re easily accessible because wherever I am, ‘home’ is always close by.
Actually, it’s walking distance . . .


23 thoughts on “Walking Distance

  1. Wonderful writing. There is a compassion in your writing that smooths the edges of a very jagged part of life.

    I almost blush sometimes reading your comments, Archie.
    Thank you so very much.


  2. Time and memories are amazing things. It’s only after the fact that we realize their value.

    Hindsight is 20/20, dear . . . but you know all about the 20/20 stuff, don’tcha? 😉


  3. There is also that aspect of memory that is ever so individual. Especially when things are filtered thru youthful memories. The things we remember as good times could be remembered as quite differant to those who experienced them with us.

    Memory is so very individual.
    It’s all interpretation to some extent.


  4. thanks for this one. just left my Mom’s house. because it is a nice day (finally) i went onto the back porch and removed the plastic cover from Dad’s old redwood chair. And i sat there, running my fingers along his ‘worry grooves’. On the arm rests of that chair are the worn spots where he rubbed his fingers over the smooth wood as he contemplated the latest family pile up, crisis or judgment misfire… He’s been dead for just about 7 years. i miss him every single day.

    I thank you for sharing this story, DF. I loved it.
    I can’t believe our paths just crossed in the past few days.
    Seems we have so much common ground.
    And yes, I can ‘see’ your Dad’s chair. And it’s beautiful.
    Wonderful comment.


  5. I absolutely love stories like “Walking Distance.” They still fascinate me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to actually be able to do it?? Oh the things we’d be able to do and say in order to relive things from our past. Sometimes when I get talking to people, I find out we had been at the same place at the same time but didn’t know each other at the time. I always say wouldn’t it be cool to go back to that point and see if we ran into each other or saw each other??? Check out “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Carn.
    Yeah, it would be wonderful to be able to go back. Way back.
    Is the TT’s Wife a short story or a book?
    I’ll go by Amazon and check it out.


  6. Not too long ago, I found myself standing in front of the house I grew up in when I was a kid. Memories, right down to smells, came flooding back. This post reminded me of that day.

    Thank you.

    Damn, I’m batting 1000 tonight.
    Reminding someone of something special is a gift back to me.
    Thanks, S


  7. The ironic thing is that you bring back to life those memories with pieces such as these. You are keeping them alive with your words – those memories I don’t think are going anywhere.

    Maybe that’s what my writing is really all about.
    And I agree, the memories aren’t going anywhere.
    Thanks, Annie


  8. This post is amazing, and I just read the “Goodbye House” too. I need to read Walking Distance. I love stories about memories, and you are talented at writing them. I get chills when I read your writings. Thank you for sharing.

    Thank you so much for reading.
    It’s people like you that make me keep writing. Do you have any siblings? 😉


  9. I remember growing up that most things were walking distance. Life seemed simpler that way.

    As for ‘never getting them back’, whenever I get frustrated with someone I care about, I stop myself to really look at them and say to myself ‘this might be last time I’ll get to spend time with him/her, is this frustration worth my last memory?’. It’s never worth it.

    But I had to lose someone first to realise that there’s nothing worse then remembering a last moment not appreciated.
    Nice post, as always.

    You just ‘get’ the stuff I write.
    I love that.
    Thanks, S
    Almost forgot . . . Chili
    You will love this.


  10. “In time, they were both moved from a place they could no longer remember, leaving me with a house I couldn’t forget.” – You have a way with words ~m. You were given a gift to express your feelings in a beautiful way. I wish I could go back myself… great post.

    You picked one of my favorite lines. 😉
    Thanks so much for reading, LL


  11. do you know, i’ve read this post 6 times now, and i’m still stuck…perhaps it has something to do with the fact i get misty eyed every time and i struggle to see?
    this is one of “those” posts michael….

    I was wondering why you hadn’t commented.
    Now I know.
    One of “those” posts?
    I’m definitely taking that as a great compliment.
    Thanks, Moe.


  12. For a long time after my Dad died of this disease, my dreams about him were shots from hell … the brain yelling BOO at itself. Then one night, I dreamed of him young. I mean younger than I ever knew him … a Dad I had only seen in pictures taken before I was born. He was laughing. Since then, my dreams of him have been fun, soothing. And that is as close to a miracle as I am ever likely to get. For me, Walking Distance is now invariably a very pleasant stroll.

    the brain yelling BOO at itself

    God, I know all about that.
    Wonderful story about your Dad. Thanks for sharing it.


  13. How touching! I actually said “Awwww” outloud when I read the last line! HOME is always within walking distance…whether it’s literally within walking distance or most importantly in your heart! That is what I wish for my children that they grow to remember ‘Home is within walking distance’ 🙂 Thanks Michael for sharing!

    Thanks Lynn.
    Prayers going out for the hubby.
    Tell him to stay away from chainsaws for a while, okay? 😉


  14. This was lovely. You are a gifted writer. I’ve been thinking a lot about memories lately, how powerful they are and how they can be brought back so swiftly by a word, a look, a smell. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    Welcome and thanks so much for reading.
    One of the biggest reminders for me is the smell of a cigar.
    Reminds me of simpler days. (maybe that’s why I like smoking them so much)
    Stop back again.


  15. My words to you will probably get lost in the shuffle of well deserved praise and good thoughts coming to you from everyone around you. This is such a positive circle of friends here, isn’t it? I’m sad, M. I still have my parents –both of them — and have been trying to file every memory and moment away in preparation of “that day.” I even joke about buying their home because I will need that so much –that tangible link– when they are gone. Please don’t think I’m morbid, I’ve just been concentrating and telling myself to savor each scent, sound and sight. *tears* It’s really hard to do that and still enjoy the moment! I don’t know how to explain it. Your beautiful description of your experience has moved me to keep trying. To remember how much I will need it when it’s too late to wish for it. Forgive me for sounding selfish! And home…your lovely perspective on home…well…I feel like a wet blanket because home to me is where my heart is, and my heart is not within walking distance. My heart is miles away…so it feels like I will never make it back there. Please don’t throw tomatoes at me guys, I love this post! M, I really admire the way your sentimental nature shines through your writing like gold –more like platinum in its; strength– and evokes this kind of response and emotion in me, them, all of us. Sweet M. Thank you for being real and open. Your parents are smiling upon you.


    If this “moved you to keep trying” I feel I’ve done exactly what I intended to do.
    I think about the sad fact that my mother and father never said goodbye.
    The disease all but robbed them both of the opportunity.
    Thanks so much for this comment, Ali.
    It means much . . .


  16. It’s funny, but for me it’s the house of my mothers parents that seems to call to me. They are all gone now, and the house stands in disrepair from lack of use and yet if I had the resources I would do whatever it took to build that house back up again. They once had 160 acres in the hills of West Virginia, and yet it all seems gone – just like the house soon will be.

    I hope something magical happens, Grimm, and you can save the house.
    It may even “save” a small part of you . . .


  17. Posts like these are always bittersweet. I like being reminded that life is short and sweet and that it can slip away so easily if we’re not keeping watch.

    Memories are funny things. They come back when we don’t want them, go away when we want to keep them, elude our query system when we need them to be there, and slip out the backdoor at the most inconvenient times.

    It’s annoying and difficult, but at times I wonder if our brains were not built that way for our own sanity, as strange as that sounds.

    Sanity is a beautiful thing. Perhaps you’re right.


  18. I just stumbled upon your blog through the tag surfer, and was glad to find this post. You created a very vivid picture in my mind. Great writing!

    Thanks so much Allison and welcome.
    Glad you enjoyed the post.
    Please stop by again . . .


  19. I sold my house just about this time last spring. It was the one my late husband and I bought together, thinking that we would build a life and family within its walls. That never came to be as he was diagnosed with a terminal illness just a month after we moved in. The house become a repository of our unfinished life and I wasn’t all that sorry to part with it. Still, I occasionally run across pictures and wonder if the young couple who bought the place have filled those empty spaces that I left behind.

    This was a great piece.

    Awww, Annie, that’s a story you should write.
    It sounds like a mighty beautiful one.
    Thanks so much for the comment.


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