I had a great run with Seamus O’Malley yesterday. Actually, all my runs for the past 30 days have been good or great. Not a stinker among them, which is rare. It is probably the weather. It’s been great here in the GTA, and yesterday afternoon was no exception. I was able to wear shorts, albeit with a long sleeved light layerable top.
I’m normally one to mix up my routes on a daily basis. Think of me like the shuffle setting on your iPod. Completely unpredictable.
I have several loops, all with different distances, and quite a few out and backs that also vary distance wise. However, since autumn showed her gorgeous face I’ve been breaking my rule of being random in my running. It’s because there is a particular 7 km loop that takes me by a beautiful stretch of beach on Lake Ontario that I absolutely adore this time of year. I like it for three reasons. One: it has a slow and steady incline for the last 3 kilometers and that’s good for my caboose. Two: Seamus loves playing on the beach and wading in the water. If he can frighten a goose or two, he considers it a victory! Three: The beach is deserted in the fall, winter and spring so I am not bothering anyone when I let Seamus go off leash. Of course this means I do not get a continuous 7 km run in. By the time we hit the beach we’ve eaten up about 3 kilometers, so I get a fifteen to twenty minute break from running and Seamus takes it up a notch by going Secretariat styles.
When I first started my obsession with this loop about a month ago, I noticed an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair parked at a particular spot, just above a stretch of the beach that the geese like to collect in. It’s about halfway down the waterfront and that spot has a particularly nice vantage point. In fact, on a clear smog free day, you can easily see the skyline of Toronto. He was alone, and the very first time I saw him I noted that he had a flat cap on that was very similar to the one that my maternal grandfather used to wear. He even had it placed on his head the same way my Grampy used to wear it, slightly askew and with the brim to one side. The reason I clearly remember this man was that the moment Seamus O’Malley ran past his vantage point and cleared about a dozen fowl, he clapped. Clapped and waved. I waved back, happy that he was not one of those weird bird people who regularly chastise dog people about disturbing the crap happy waterfowl. Those people are real…trust.
I waved back and continued on my way and promptly forgot all about him. Seamus and I continued on for a bit longer and then I put his Six Legs To Fitness leash back on him and we clambered off the beach back to the trail and off we went.
Over the next 30 days or so I saw this same man in the same spot almost every time we hit the beach on this loop. On cooler days he had a tartan blanket on his lap for warmth. On cold and windy days he had that same blanket and a scarf as well. He always had the same hat on. He always waved at us. Every time. The days that I could count on seeing him were the times we’d get there around 1:30 pm, as there have been some events happening in my life that have prevented early or even late morning runs. On the few days I have managed to get an early morning run in, I’d never spot him.
Last Wednesday I spied him when I ran alone at about 2:00 pm. As Seamus was not with me, I did not slow down and walk onto the beach. Instead I ran right past him, as the trail is set back behind from where he places his wheelchair. He could not see me, but I could clearly see him. He appeared to be lost in reverie, and I briefly hesitated on my run. I wanted to stop and say hello. I wondered if he’d recognize me without a Big Red Dog lurking nearby. I did not stop, though. I was making excellent time and all I was really thinking about was keeping my fabulous pace up. I glanced at him a couple of times as I went by, but he did not look around. This time I actually kept thinking about him and about a kilometer later I regretted not stopping, saying hello and introducing myself. He was always alone, so I assumed he might be grateful for a chat, even a brief one.
Well, that brings me to my afternoon run yesterday. Seamus accompanied me. Mainly because he threw himself at the door and blocked my passage. A sure sign that he was going with me, whether I wanted him to or not. As I mentioned in my first paragraph, the weather was warm, so along with the poop bags I carry, I also took my hydration belt so I could offer Seamus water along the way. He’d just as soon drink from the water of Lake Ontario, but I worry about the quality of the H2O, which does impact the quality of his digestive processes.
We got to the beach and sure enough the old man was sitting there in his wheelchair and as we passed we got a friendly wave. This time instead of waving back, I trudged through the sand and gingerly picked my way among the larger stones and made my way towards him, with Seamus following behind, still off leash. As I approached him I greeted him with a cheery hello and told him that meeting him was long past due. I introduced myself and Seamus O’Malley, hoping beyond hope that he did not think I was a crazy woman. After all, perhaps he saw dozens of people on that beach, all with dogs. He might wave at them all! There was a chance that he had no idea why I was coming to say hello! Yes, this is how my mind works at the last second after I make a decision. Second guessing. Second guessing everywhere!
I need not have worried. As I drew near, he greeted me and told me he wondered how long it would be before I came up to say hello and allowed him to see my Irish Setter up close! Turns out he is Irish himself and goes by the name of Angus. I’m sure I’m messing up the spelling, but I’m doing this phonetically. Irish names tend to be tongue twisting. Seamus, for those of you that don’t know, is pronounced Shaymus, but I digress.
Seamus made a bee line for this interesting man and proceeded to sniff the absolute shite out of him. I slipped the collar over Seamus to better control his overabundant enthusiasm. Turns out that Angus used to own an Irish Setter and was absolutely thrilled to be able to get a close up look at my Four Leaf Rover. I was told in no uncertain terms that my dog was one of the biggest Irish Setters he had ever seen. We chatted for a few moments about Seamus, and then I told him why I had come up to see him. That I had started to wonder about him and wanted to know if he was here every single day around this time. Turns out that, unless it was raining, yes, he is almost always in that spot, though in the winter he stays home. Home is a senior living facility very close by, where he lives independently. His motorized wheelchair gets him around for when he needs to go further distances. He can walk quite well, but tires easily, so likes to rely on his motorized transport.
When I expressed concern that he was by himself, he retorted that is how he likes it! I laughed as he sounded exactly like my step dad, confirming my opinion that most old men are quite happy to be left to their own devices. He quickly told me that he was enjoying my company and petting Seamus, who by this time had leaned up against Angus’s wheelchair and had positioned his rear for a welcome rub. As our conversation progressed I found out his wife had passed away a few years ago, that his two daughters and three sons all live in the GTA and that he had arrived in Canada as a landed immigrant when he was 23. He told me that he loves this beach, and he and his wife used to come there regularly just to watch the sailboats in the summertime. We probably chatted for another five or ten minutes, and then I decided it was time to get going. I told him it had been a treat talking to him and that I was looking forward to seeing him a few more times on one of my afternoon runs with Seamus before we got any meaningful snowfall. He thanked me for stopping so he could meet my Big Red Dog but then he said something to me that made me pause.
Angus reminded me of something I had said to him earlier……how I had started to wonder about him and that was why I came to talk to him. He told me that he had wondered about me as well. Wondered about my dog, our lives and what kind of family I had. He thanked me for stopping to talk to him and telling him a bit about myself. I don’t know why I choked up a bit. Maybe it was the fact that while I was wondering about him, he was wondering about me. It was suddenly a very special human moment. Whatever the reason, I lowered myself down and hugged him good bye, which is completely out of character for me to do with a virtual stranger. I felt strongly, though, that this was what I should do, in that very moment, so I did. I waved once more as Seamus and I continued our run and I shouted out that I would see him again soon!
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