I see them walking quite often—an older man, his son and their dog. The man is very tan, very thin with a large mustache—if he dressed the part, he would strike quite the pose of a wiry codger from the Old West; his son, a larger young man with special needs who has a quiet gentleness about him that only true innocence can have. The older man and I speak and seem to have a certain kinship, most of our language is a nod or a quick smile—rarely words. We are both few in that category.
Walking today in their usual and comfortable cadence, the man with the dog on a lead, his son following his usual five paces behind. I watch from afar today and note how both the dog and man seem to be on different types of leads. The dog on his obvious one and the man on an unseen one held by his son. The dog never turns to look for the man. The father never turns to look for his son. The tether that reaches between them is as apparent to me as any rope you might see between two climbers, an unspoken assurance between them — the young man’s need to hold on and his father’s need to be held.
Within those short five paces there seems to lie a soft love, comfort and confidence that neither will let go and that there is true equality between the holding and being held; that there is a recognition, without struggle, of the large gray expanse between guiding and being guided, between leading and being led.
I have no real idea of what was unspoken between this father and his son. I realize that the true dialogue is my own. How willing am I to lead or to be led? To hold or to be held? To love or to be loved? And, what are the real differences between them?
I can accept the obvious vulnurability of being protected, but can I accept the vulnurability that comes with being trusted enough to protect? Can I be attached to either end of that lead and accept that the other is held or holding? Can I surrender to true love, trust and the faith that is needed?
Turning the corner, me heading north and them east, I look back to see if they’re still there. A look, occuring to me, that they will never give one another.