Thrive logo
spacer Log in | spacer
corner spacer corner
corner browseissues corner
corner spacer corner
corner popularlinks corner
corner spacer corner
corner spacer corner
corner spacer corner
corner spacer corner

Walking The Walk
By Joseph Longo

 My bronze baby shoes had been on my desk for years, collecting dust. One day, I shoved them in a box with other tired tchotchkes. Recently, looking for something else, they jumped out at me.  Some of the bronze had turned green and had begun to flake. But the shoes looked remarkably alive, as if a child could still step into them and walk.

My mother had a video of me in those shoes taking my first steps. My father was in it: handsome, strong and young.   I was toddling towards his outstretched arms, looking eager and excited. I cried out when I reached him and he enveloped me in his strong, safe arms.

My father and I rarely talked. There were reasons: One, he was a Sicilian immigrant who never really mastered the language. Secondly, he was taciturn, not a man of many words.  He was physical and loved doing things with his body and hands.  He did fifty pushups every morning.

We may not have talked much but we loved to walk together. He had a passion for it, could walk for miles, non-stop. He instilled that passion in me at an early age.  As an infant, he carried me on his back as he walked to wherever the winds took him.

One of my earliest walks with him was on the beach. He worshipped the sun, the sand and the sparkling ocean. The first thing he did when he got there was removed his shirt, revealing his movie-star chest and arms. This caught the desirous eyes of the sun-bathing ladies and the envy of their soft, overweight men. He walked shoeless digging his feet into the warm welcoming sand, always looking down, searching.

“There’s treasures in the sand, Sonny,” he would say to me. “Look for them.”

Over the years he found hundreds of dollars in coins and bills, watches, bracelets, and endless keys. He once even found a love letter which he kept folded in a closet in his bedroom for years. He never showed it to me. He called his booty treasures, and he’d bring them home to my mother. She was disdainful of the loot, and reprimanded him for bringing the junk into her clean home. However, whenever he returned from the beach he would show her what he found and she would repeat the reprimand. It was a ritual with them.

My father worked in Manhattan on construction sites in the Wall Street area, and he’d take me to visit these sites on weekends. These were special occasions. He would show me the site and point out what part of the building he worked on. It was always high up, scary, and it made me fearful for him. I often had dreams of him falling and me trying to catch him.  After he showed me the site, we would begin our trek – this was my favorite part – and we always had one destination: the Palace, his favorite spot in Manhattan.

I lovingly remember these treks. We started in the Wall Street area and since it was always on the weekend, the streets were deserted. We had the narrow maze of winding streets, the canyons, formed by the towering skyscrapers, to ourselves, hearing only our footfalls echoing as we walked. It was our ghost town in a heart of the throbbing metropolis. The emptiness reminded me of cities in the movies where everyone had been killed off by a nuclear attack. As we walked, his hard, calloused hand tightly held my small hand, and he would point our landmarks: the stock exchange with its row of Corinthian Columns, Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton was buried, the Customs House, and Battery Green Park. He was my private guide, and was very much in love and in awe with his adopted city.

Once we left the Wall Street area, the streets grew crowded. Streams of people surged past us.  A hodgepodge of types and colors, speaking odd-sounding languages, hurrying, some wearing exotic garb, some dolled up in their Sunday best, many women were cocooned in furs and clutched shopping bags with names and pictures on them, men carried leather briefcases and wore suits and ties.  These creatures were not like the folks in my Bronx neighborhood, where the men only wore suits to church, or for weddings and funerals. And the only fur I saw was on the cats that sniffed around garbage cans.  These aliens opened a new and intimidating world for me. But daddy strode among them confidently. He was one of them; he belonged to the streaming masses that surged above the concrete streets.

“Daddy, you’re walking too fast,” I would say.

And he would pick me up and hold me in his arms and quicken his pace even more. He would often hold me aloft above the crowd as we walked.

“You flying,” he would say. “You flying, Sonny.”

 I remember the exhilaration I felt as I soared about the streaming crowds. It took my breath away.

 We’d walked down Lower Broadway and he would stop to get us hot dogs from a street vendor. He always wanted extra sauerkraut and mustard. Then we would continue to walk, eating our hot dogs. This seemed sinful to me, eating and walking. At home, my mother always insisted that we eat properly seated at the table so we could digest our food. And here we were, daddy and I, walking down the street eating, loving every joyous mouthful.

We walked to 34th Street, and he would point out Macy’s and tell me that the Thanksgiving Day Parade we watched on TV took place there. We looked in the windows, and I would marvel open mouthed at the magical displays.

We walked to 42nd Street and Times Square. It was 42nd street before it became a cesspool of pornography and vice. The movie theaters that lined the street did not show X-rated fare, but double bills of movies that had been out a while.  Though I must admit the area did have a bit of sleaze even back then. We never lingered there long, but daddy had to make one stop to buy a knish in the cavernous Nathan’s Delicatessen. Since he had emigrated from Sicily, he had developed a taste for knishes. He called them good Jewish food.

We then walked down Sixth Avenue, or the Avenue of the America, which led us to the Palace, which is what daddy called Radio City Music Hall, the Eldorado of our trek uptown. It was a renewed thrill to see the twin lights proclaiming the palace come into view. Then the marquee was visible with the magical names of movie stars and movie titles emblazoned on it: invitations to enter still another magical world.

 Inside, we crossed the grand art deco lobby with its painted murals and sculptures.

“This is a real palace,” daddy would say. “Don’t you think so, Sonny? This palace makes you feel like a king.”

Then we would sink into the soft velvet seats, and I would marvel at the great stage that resembled a setting sun. I took a deep breath, happy to rest my weary legs and feet. Soon I got lost in the movie and the stage show. For daddy, the highlight was the leggy Rockettes, doing their line of incomparable kicks. They mesmerized him. After the entertainment, we would take the subway home – back to our mostly uneventful life in the Bronx.

Over the decades, I have continued to be a compulsive walker like my father.  I strode though many cites: San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and many more. But none of those perambulations had the magic and wonder of the walks I took with my father though my boyhood streets of Manhattan.

The last walk I took with him was about a year before he died. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and couldn’t be allowed to walk by himself. So he was housebound, and I knew that that was killing him as much as the disease that was eating his brain and body. My mother had to keep a constant watch on him so that he would not walk off on his own.

One day she phoned me.

“Daddy’s missing,” she said with a catch in her voice. “He went walking by himself.”

I quickly drove to my parents’ apartment, my mother, looking distraught, standing at the door with her arms tightly folded, told me that he had been gone for about an hour. I circumnavigate the neighborhood  – driving down streets that he used to walk before the disease made him a prisoner. I finally saw him slowly moving down a quiet residential street, frail and delicate, barely a shadow of his former self. I drove up alongside of him.

“Dad, I said. Get in the car. I’ll drive you home.”

He stared at me blankly through thick glasses, looking confused, not comprehending who I was. Then the light of recognition slowly ignited his face.

“Sonny,” he said, smiling. “Where you come from?”

“Get in, Dad.”

“No, no. Come. Walk. Walk with me, Sonny. Remember we used to walk.”

I parked my car, and sidled up to him. His pace was slow, halting, almost a shuffle. His hand searched for mine, found it, and held it tightly. It was boney and cold. We walked like that, hand and hand, just as we had done when I was a kid. But who was the kid now?

“Remember, when you was young and we walked in the city,” he said, looking up at me. His eyes glistened; he seemed to be fighting tears.

 “Of course I do.”

 “Remember I held you up and said you was flying.”

 I smiled a bittersweet smile.

“Remember Radio City Music Hall and the girls with the legs. Those were good times. Weren’t they, Sonny?”

“The best times, dad.”

We walked like that, hand and hand, through the neighborhood streets, with him clinging to shards of memory that were quickly being erased from his mind.

Joseph Longo Bio:

I was born in New York City in the borough of the Bronx.  When I reached 18 I travelled extensively through the United States and Europe. When I stopped travelling, I worked in the film industry for a number of years, and then in my late twenties, I tired of the freelance film industry lifestyle, settled in Boston and went to college. I received a BA in English and Education. Then I received an MA in mass communications.

As a graduate student I started to teach English on the college level, and after graduating I continued to teach but also returned to the film industry, where I worked mainly as a scriptwriter for training and educational media: films, video, slide shows, DVDs and audio presentations. I currently live in LA with my partner of 16 years and our three cats. I continue to maintain two careers, writing and teaching, and currently teach on-line English courses for Santa Monica College. My partner and I love to travel, and we are avid hikers.

Back to Stories

COMMENTS (4) | alzheimer, dimentia, health, parenting, relationships


4 Responses to “Walking The Walk”

  1. Diane Schachter
    December 13th, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    Joseph, what a beautiful well-written story.

  2. Basia
    December 16th, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

    thank U for sharing with us Joseph this story, i enjoyed reading it & found it very moving at the end…

  3. Steve Sumii
    January 19th, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    Joe, What a beautiful story. I visualized the whole story. The ending where you walk with your dad was especially moving. It brought back many fond memories of my mother. Even at 69 yrs. old, she’s still mom. Steve.

  4. Richard Berman
    August 26th, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

    A emotional story well written with bright eye ups and sad eye downs. A story I could relate to. My grandparents would take me on Manhattan treks from the same Bronx street that Joseph was raised on. Additionally and sadly, I watched my father in law fade into death after several years battling Alzheimers’ Disease.

Leave a Reply

corner spacer corner
corner spacer corner
corner spacer corner
corner comments corner
  • Frank Sterle Jr.: Whenever I observe stress in the facial expression of my mother, a typical senior, I also observe...
  • Kim: This was an excellent blog. I have been with my alcoholic husband for 15 years. I felt like I was losing my mind...
  • Alice: Helping someone with this issue is hard. And even more if you love him. I know that very well. We struggled...
  • Union Alarm: The best way is to leave such a person as it is not worth making your life miserable with such a person....
  • Nancy Flora: I think what you mean is a non-drinking member of an alcoholic family. Alcoholism is a family disease....
  • Amanda: The family is waking up Sunday AM and my alcoholic husband again makes another nasty comment to me. The...
  • Angel: I learned how to detach from my drunk husband! Than my mother passed away. All gloves were off after that. My...
  • Lorraine: Married thirty seven and a half years to an alcoholic. But he is a good person. And he does good deeds for...
  • jw: I have been with my husband twenty one years. We have three children together, ages 5,7, and 9. He is a...
  • Richard Berman: A emotional story well written with bright eye ups and sad eye downs. A story I could relate to. My...
  • Gina: Love this. Just what I needed to read. Thank you for your courage to share this.
  • Tired: I am struggling with detaching, but still trying. I have been with my other half off and on for 5 years. The...
  • Debra Grossman: Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. It nourishes my soul to learn of such special...
  • Jack russell: Really enjoyed reading the website. I have also have a website about this great dog.
  • Anonymous: Thank God for your blog. After 37 years of being married to an alcoholic,I’ve finally reached my...
  • Anonymous: Thanx 4 da truth
  • Sandra: I am from USA, i am 36 years old, i want to gladly give My testimony of how a spell caster dr.mac@yahoo. com...
  • g: Thank you for your words. As I navigate through marriage with children (11, 5, 3) and I am a stay at home mom, the...
  • Catherine Ellen Pettway: My husband and I married in 1988. He occasionally drank beer but not everyday. He came from...
  • Nic: Thank you Mike for your honesty and vulnerability. It helps to feel a connection with someone who understands...
  • Robert Goldsmith: Thank you for sharing that very intimate experience and your story. I’m married to an...
  • MANDI: Is this group still going? I love my husband and I knew what I was getting into when I married him. I knew he...
  • Kelly: Dear Keith, I hope you are at peace now. You are missed by many.
  • Delilah Campos: Dear LaVora, Thank you so much for sharing this intimate experience. I am deeply touched and...
  • Mary Ellen Bennett: Thank you so much. I am married to an alcoholic and I have watched him go through rehabilitation...
  • Tracy: Thank you for sharing your story with me Ivor. I’m so glad you had a loving supportive Aunt to guide you...
  • Daniel Fontana: I know those kids,especially Snezana.Please send me their contact information.
  • Neyhaaa: I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Yet, thank you.
  • Amy: My daughter is five and her dad is an alcoholic. I know we need to leave. We both own our house and I...
  • CPC: I think this is among the such a lot important info for me. And i’m happy studying your article. However...
  • online festival: Every year, people in India find different ways to celebrate the same festival, and perhaps this...
  • Karol: Listening to all the mother’s on here is overwhelming for me. I think about what all of you are going...
  • Vicki Osheka: This is my second marriage and I came from a non drinking family. Didn’t realize what I was...
  • Elle: Wel written article. My husband is walking around totally beligerant. Where he ends up making messes, he has...
  • Maren: Thank you for this! 3rd day on Cipralex and a glimmer of hope.
  • Anonymous: I ‘gave in’ recently. I am more hopeful than ever that things will improve for me after...
  • LindaJane Riley: I apologize to everyone who has commented. I didn’t know this story was still active. I would...
  • Rahulbh28: Dear Members, Please help me. . . I’m sharing my painful moments which my brother and my family...
  • rene: Yes i too lived the nightmare for 45 yrs..when in my marriage the last. 10 yrs my alcoholic lived in the same...
  • Grace: I typed in Google search, overcoming childhood loneliness because I am paying attention to some habits that I...
  • Casadina: I am so thankful that I found this website. I am like others on here and my alcoholic is passed out snoring...
  • Grateful: I cannot express how much I appreciate your story. I have been with my alcoholic for 11 years and I do not...
  • Vic: I stumbled upon this beautifully written article because I just “gave in” today. I just picked up my...
  • Carol: I have recently begun to admit that my husband is an alcoholic. My heart is broken… I am pissed… I...
  • TJ: Thank you for this article. You are the first person who seems to understand why I am still married to an...
  • sariah: I wept as I read your story. I am currently learning to detach as well after 20 years of marriage to an...
  • LaVora: Good luck, N. My experience may not be yours. However, I deeply believe that happiness is our birthright. You...
  • nk: Lavora, I am exactly here in my marriage – trying to turn it around. Rgds, N
  • Suzanne: Hi Martin and Cathy. Watched your documentary. You are a wonderful family. Everyone has their struggles, no...
  • admin: Thank you for letting us know. The link is now set to the their new WEB page. We have our dog from them.
  • Linda Jane Riley: About a year ago I was forced to take a step back from all things related to alcoholism. My...
  • SHerry: Your link to the rescue adoption site is for sale with no other info on the dogs.
  • Marleen: Thank you for sharing your story! That’s real inspirating!
  • Julie: Its 4:50am here. I can hear him snoring in the nursery. I brought the baby to bed with me.. He only snores...
  • ld: I thought I was suffering alone. The advice and comments make me feel better and gives me the strength to go on....
  • Sam: Hi Mike, Very poignant, “There are no grown-ups. We are all children in adult garments” is right on...
  • TJ: Thank You!!! Like “judy” commented above my mind was racing and I felt out of control… My life...
  • Karunakaran: It’s very nice.
  • judy: Thanks for ur writings… it really help my mind to calm down…. where can i go to talk with alot of...
  • Tanya Sousa: We certainly do have to change the way we respond, don’t we Paul? I’m encouraged though. I...
  • Paul Trainer: Thank you, Tanya, this is all so true. As someone who adores starlings too, I know that it is only when...
  • Cathy: In reading I see how difficult it is to be married to an alcoholic husband for 30 years and have now...
  • carrir: You took the words right out of my mouth. Xoxo
corner spacer corner
Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. | Privacy Statement