Friday, September 26, 2008
Rudy and I went for a walk today. He was just sitting in his plastic chair in the driveway when I went past. Wink saw him first and started to pull on the leash to get to him as fast as she could. “You goin’ for a walk?” he asked. “Yes, I sure am.” “Hey, you look nice today, all dressed up.” “Thanks Rudy: I had a meeting. You want to walk with me?” His face lit up and without shutting his front door, he lifted up the latch on the gate and we took off towards the park.
I love walking with Rudy. It’s time to chat and catch up, admire the beauty of the trees along the path in the park together. I love it when friends notice things like trees. He tells me his gal friend brought him a tray of food and he won’t have to fix anything all week. He asks about my partner, and I explain she’s working a lot. It’s football season so she’s at the games this time of year.
Rudy tells me how much he loved to work. He loved his job. He worked at a mill just down the road, along the river. “It’s gone now,” he says. “But I sure loved that job. When I turned 40 they told me I was too old. But 3 months later they called me to come back to work for them. I shoulda told ‘em to blow it out their nose.” But he didn’t. He had gone back to work for them nights, so he could fish during the day.
We round the bend at the park and walk along the busy street. Talk turns as it usually does, to fishing. “I fished all my life” he tells me. “The fish were so thick, they’d swim around your feet.” I ask him what he did with all of that bounty he caught. “We canned ‘em! 7 cents a jar to can that fish.”
I turn onto streets I don’t usually walk because I’m enjoying our conversation and I know Rudy is too. He tells me about the Gravenstein apples he collected from a neighborhood tree, and we walk to it to see if any are left. We knock a few on the ground around, and the heady cider scent fills the air around us. They’re picked over by now, but he points out how the hedge underneath the tree would catch the apples as they fell, gently rolling them onto the sidewalk and preventing bruises. It’s a good set up for apple gatherers like us wandering the neighborhood.
Across the corner is another tree, and we cross to see what we can find. A mix of green and red, small apples cover the tree. Rudy gathers a red one, wipes it off with the hankie he always carries, and offers me a bite. I pass, so he takes a big bite. “Sweet!” he says, then spits out the peel. Rudy doesn’t care for the peels much.
He tells me how when he was a kid they’d go swimming and afterwards, they’d grab an apple from a nearby Gravenstein tree to eat. “Gravensteins are the best cuz’ they’re sweet.”
Rudy walks me home, and I offer him some tomatoes. “Why sure” he says while he pulls a plastic bag from his pocket. Rudy is prepared. A few ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, a cucumber, and a handful of pineapple tomatillos go into his bag.
Tonight Rudy will watch the presidential debate, as will I. I ask him who he thinks he’s going to vote for, and 94-year old Rudy says “I think I’ll vote for the young guy.” Obama it is. “Rudy, are you a democrat?” “Of course, been a democrat my whole life. “ And while he’s not sure how to pronounce Obama’s name, he tells me “it’s time for us old guys to give the young guys a chance.” Yet another reason why I love my friend Rudy. And our walks together.