A walk in the park

Life through the eyes of a precious grandson

The author is a professor emeritus of religious studies at Chico State.

On my birthday I take my 4-year-old grandson, Elliott, for a walk to the cork forest, next to Parkview Elementary School. Of course, our dog Livingstone (I presume) believes he is the point of the walk. As we cross East Eighth Street, I consider that in my hand lies this little boy’s well-being and his parents’ dreams.

Set loose in Bidwell Park, Elliott manages to fall once. He does not cry, but he keeps bending over to check if his owie will last until we get home and his mother can kiss it. My kisses last only two blocks. Mothers’ are forever.

As I look down at curly blond hair, I realize I am holding hands with my youth. My father took me for a walk every night after supper, back in Dubuque, Iowa, holding my hand tight. If we greeted a neighbor on hard times, he would say to me, “poor fella.” I was to hold my head high, because I was a Heinz. In a seminary class on preaching, though, the professor thought I held my head a little too high.

At Bidwell Park, the highlight of our walk is the creek. Elliott immediately begins to squeal and toss sticks and stones. Livingstone is beside himself with all the commotion. Of course, I walk along the creek every day, sometimes calculating the effect of recent rains. But I never throw stones and squeal. Perhaps I could learn Elliott’s capacity for delight.

As we’re walking home we pass by several people having loud fun on their front porch. A man into what’s probably his third beer shouts, “I know what kind of dog you have, it’s an English sheep dog.” “No, it’s not,” the woman says. “It’s a springer spaniel.” “Right,” I say. The man hoots. Then he spies Elliott and shouts, “God bless you, little boy.” Elliott looks up at me beaming: “He knows me, Grandpa. He knows me.”

Is this how people feel when they hear God calling to them?