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Take a Hike, Ya Jerk! ... But Not Without Me!

April 7, 2019

I wanted to tell my husband to take a hike! God, he can get me going. The irony was, we were already on one. Either way you go, the five-mile loop is pretty hilly, with elevations that reach upwards of 1,000 feet in some spots and, depending on which way you head, determines the views you will get.

I could drop some clever puns about how differently two people can view the same thing, but no, this is more about how, after nearly 38 years, my matrimonial mate -- who might disagree with this assertion -- seems to take his view from a different pair of binoculars altogether.

As we rounded a corner, already two miles into our trek and with three mostly uphill miles to go, I suggested we look back once in a while to take in the mountain peaks that would sit behind us most of the way.

But wait, let me back up here for a moment.

Forty-five minutes earlier, when we stood, boots tied and coats zipped, in front of our house, which is perched halfway up a good-size hill, deciding whether to go westward and upward or eastward and downward, my walking buddy thought he might like to begin our journey by heading downhill. Downhill, it is! It didn’t matter -- I’ve gone both ways and each has its specific benefits. Plus, the sun was shining on our faces and the air was brisk, with life in our lungs. I was happy to be walking with the one I love. Either way, it’s a good workout, a great walk. Still, there is a distinction to be made.

The distinction being, if we were to start out the way Steve did not choose (emphasis on not), attacking a gradual climb and then moving easily into the long downhill walk, there would be a considerable amount of time where we’d enjoy picturesque overlooks without having to turn around at all. And, as you already know, instead, we hooked a right out of our dirt drive and moved right into the roller-coaster series of downhills that make up the lower half of our mountain road. That left the second half of the trek for tackling the extended, arduous climb, which Steve has deemed the harder hike, with its forward-facing hillocks and woodlands always ahead, leaving the sweeping, eagle-soaring vistas to our backs.

Unless, of course, we stop to turn and take them in.

Either way, there will always be hills to climb whenever we set out from home base. There’s just no getting around it, a kind of what-goes-up-must-come-down thing, or, in our case, the other way around.

Anyway, it actually didn’t occur to me as I glanced at my heart app on my iPhone (or maybe it did, but I had forgotten to point it out) that the best views, in my opinion, would be mostly to our backs now that we were headed the way we were headed. No big deal. You can turn around at any time to take them in, and I wanted to make sure I did because when you’re standing at the edge of something so high, you can spread your arms wide and feel a little like an eagle about to take off yourself.

So we walked up and down the gentle hills together for a couple of miles as people who like being around each other would do. Until we rounded the corner and began the last leg of the journey. At that juncture, I guess I crossed some line when I said something about remembering to turn around to take in the amazing views that would be at our backs as we climbed upward.

“The views are good ahead as well,” Steve said. “But they’re even better coming the other way,” I challenged.

And the debate was on.

Luckily, a wood-chipper was hard at work at this point because we were in full swing, swearing and shouting, as many f-bombs flying as wood chips. I didn’t care. I was going to stop to take in the views and beat him up the hill with room to spare. I was right. He was wrong. He was right. I was wrong. No middle ground as we huffed and puffed.

I marched ahead, trucking up the small mountain at a clip. He could take his walk alone. I could not have cared less. Funny how people say that when they care most.

And the distance grew between us. I cleared the top, triumphant and still angry, and headed downhill again at a gentler descent, nearing our house with every step I took because he had turned the debate from which way had better views to which way was the easier route to back again until it was all a pile of mulch.

How did we get so off track?

It would be easy to get stuck in this rut and just keep on going, doors locked, looking for stubborn disagreements at every turn over issues you’re not even sure are issues in the first place.

I got home in time to make lunch for us. I wasn’t going to sulk. But I was. “Why was I making lunch for that disagreeable walking pal, anyway?,” I grumbled as I cut the avocado in half, the pit lodged in one half like a petrified egg. I was trying to figure out how to work my way back, to close the distance I had put between us, to open a door.

Of course, I love him, but at the same time, I could spit nails when he gets under my skin like that. Telling me that I wanted to take the easy way around! There’s no easy way around. Anything worth while is hard work. Climbing hills. Relationships.

I wanted to somehow say, “I told you so,” to take a survey, put the question out there for everyone who’d walk the same walk, to answer as they saw fit: Which way is better?

The mud room door opened as I squeezed a wedge of lime, drizzled olive oil, salted and peppered the salsa, and began to mix the ingredients together.

I knocked on the adjoining wall. He returned the rhythm. It’s a silly knock we do to signal that we are there, we are listening.

George Lucas got it right when he said, “If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand in hand, it adds 10 million at the box office.”

The heck with the survey. Tomorrow, we walk the other way and see for ourselves.

Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, and writes about writing, learning and life in the 21st century. You can follow Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bonniejtoomey . Learn more at www.parentforward.blogspot.com or visit bonniejtoomey.com .