My list of heroes isn’t very long.
And it reads like this: Bill Youngblood … hit the return key seven times … Everyone else. For as long as I can remember, Dad has been my model for how life should be conducted. He’s a constant source of inspiration, wisdom, humor, dignity, comfort, security and friendship. And I will cry like a baby when he’s gone.
I’ve been on the verge of that moment several times, the most notable occurring on May 5, 1979, when, while undergoing a stress test on a treadmill in a hospital, Dad suffered a near-fatal heart attack. He was … gulp … 47 years old at the time.
That first bout with heart disease bore all kinds of offspring, including a medicine cabinet full of drugs, the names of which I can’t pronounce and the likes of which I don’t ever want to take. But if HE doesn’t take them he will die. Or, so he has been told, for nearly four decades.
He’s 84 now, a very young 84 (if that’s possible for a person who has suffered one heart attack and undergone triple by-pass surgery and two procedures to insert stents in heart and neck arteries). He still lives at the same house at which he has resided since I was in the fourth grade. He still drives. He still votes in every election. And he walks. Boy, does he walk.
I mentioned my Dad’s heart attack as a tell-tale moment in our lives. Shortly after he was released from the hospital he began a walking regimen. Virtually every day from July 20, 1979 to the present he has tied or strapped on his walking shoes and headed out the door. He doesn’t return until he has covered at least two miles.
By its very nature walking can be boring.
By his very nature Dad can be resourceful. So he decided to make his quest for good health a chart-able journey. He logs every mile, marking collections every so often on a globe he and Mom keep in the living room of their home in North Richland Hills.
His original goal was to “walk” to Japan, where he had been stationed as a sailor during the Korean War. Japan was that magic place where he discovered himself, or some such. Getting back there literally wasn’t likely, given a lot of circumstances, so he took the next best course – virtually spanning the globe some two miles at a time.
He has been “around the world” once and is working on a second “lap” – in the other direction. When I typed this sentence, he was exploring Greenland. The earth has a circumference of 24,000 miles (give or take a hill or valley). I’m guessing there aren’t many 84 year olds who can claim to have walked that far, much less to have set about walking it twice.
I’m also guessing Dad will not stop walking until the day I cry.