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The Game of Life

At the park today my feet are walking but my mind is blogging.

This summer went by way too fast and now with the onset of fall, we are all thrust back into a routine, whether it is school, work, a combination of both or even retirement. What could I discuss? Back to school? Back to business? Back in the game? Hmmm.

I pick up my pace, hit the walking app on my phone and head down the winding path. I am only a few minutes in when I begin to feel like a game piece, moving along the bends and curves of a 3D version of The Game of Life – My Life.

To my left, three toddlers squeal and scamper toward the blue slide. Parents stand by chatting. I recall being so worried about making all the right decisions way back when. Twenty years later it seems so silly fretting about whether to register my son for am or pm nursery school or choosing between ballet or jazz dance lessons for my daughter. Sometimes I wish I could go back – for just one day – to feel the warmth of a toddler’s hug or hear the sweet sound of being called “mommy.”

In the distance, jogging straight toward me is a tall young man with a fluffy golden retriever on a leash, in step at his side. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach, even though it’s been quite some time since we put our beloved golden Buddy down. He and I walked this park almost every day for at least five years and I still miss my partner by my side.

With a nod to the jogger and a quick smile to his pet, I try to refocus and concentrate on coming up with a blog topic. Changing seasons? Turning over a new leaf? As the leaves turn? I quicken my step and hit Pandora on my phone. My knee length shorts and SJU Mom t-shirt scream fifty plus, but my spirit is 15 years old all over again as Billy Joel croons “Just the Way You Are.”

As the route bends to the right, I slow up a little bit to watch a busload of pony-tailed teenage girls dressed in navy and white uniforms sprint onto the well-manicured field hockey field with their sticks in hand. I chuckle out loud thinking of the four seasons I spent on the sidelines when my daughter played the sport. The majority of us parents could never quite figure out what was happening during a game. We knew when we were winning or losing, even though sometimes it wasn’t clear whether a goal counted or not.

With more than a 1/2 mile to go, I come up to the remembrance garden. Two elderly women are sitting quietly on the redwood bench just opposite the area where tiles inscribed with names of the deceased are arranged in a semi-circle. Newly planted yellow and maroon mums frame the edges. I remember feeling so lost after the death of my parents within a few years of each other and seeking comfort from friends who had experienced the loss of their parents as well.

I speed up for the last leg of my walk and take in the pretty sight of crystal blue skies and puffy white clouds over the newly cut cornfields across from the park. I can hear shouts and laughter from the playground and a whistle blowing from one of the many sports fields.

Nearing my car in the parking lot, I slow down and look at my phone. I am satisfied that I’ve completed my walk a few seconds faster than normal, grateful that I was able to reconnect with some of my own stops along life’s way, and confident that I might have something to blog about.

At different times in my life, I may have thought I was winning or losing, but over the years I’ve learned that life is never a game. When nothing seemed to be going right I couldn’t fast forward or quit. And when everything seemed to be just the way I wanted it, I didn’t have the luxury of playing it over and over again. Sometimes some of life’s toughest questions could be answered right away, but most times the solution didn’t appear for quite some time and definitely not on an answer card or from a rulebook.

I know now that there is no need to rush to the end spot because the prize is making the most of the space that is today.

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