My name’s Ged and I’m a walker!
My old Pops used to tell me that ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. I was never quite sure what he meant by saying this strange platitude.
I understood the general aphorism: ‘Life’ is tough and it doesn’t get any easier until you, eventually, die. The thing that confused me wasn’t the words, but the delivery. Pops never used this phrase in a cruel or sarcastic way. He never employed it as a kind of replacement for ‘tough shit’. He would let the words roll off his tongue in his soft Southern drawl (an accent that I’ve never had the good luck of adopting) with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. There was kindness in everything that Pops did, in the strange way he encouraged people to do things outside of their comfort zone, in the way he prodded folks into doing things they would eventually be so grateful of doing but were so initially frightened of.
Pops had always been a big guy. His Ma (my Grand Ninny) didn’t get the memo when he lost his place in the High School team. She always saw him as the college bound Defensive Tackler, destined for a college diploma and a career in the NFL, so she just kept on feeding him and he kept on eating. Luckily for him (and me) he carried the weight well throughout his twenties, so by the time he’d wooed my Mother in ‘86 at a dive-bar in Memphis, he might well have weighed over 16 stone, but he looked more like a man on the way to a successful wrestling career than a heart-attack and a triple-bypass at 34.
We lived a good life in Holly Springs. Although I steadily gained weight throughout kindergarten, elementary and middle school, I had very little to complain about. We ate (too) well and had everything that we could ask for. By the time I’d entered High School I was carrying a spare tyre or two, but I didn’t have the tall athletic build that he’d been graced with. I wasn’t big enough to be bullied and I sure as hell wasn’t big enough to play football like Pops.
Pops passed away when I was in my sophomore year. He never once told me to watch my weight, to eat less or get some exercise. From his beleaguered position on his mobility scooter, I suppose it would have sounded hypocritical. Still, when several large men had to be recruited to act as pall bearers, I began to see Pops for what he was: a man who had ended his life early. He’d done so on his own terms, eating himself into his grave and we’d watched him do it.
Once the dust had settled, I decided to make some changes in my life. Nothing earth shattering or inspiring, but enough to ensure that I wouldn’t follow in Pop’s footsteps. I cut down on the comfort foods that I’d been brought up on and endeavoured to explore the USA on foot, expanding my boundaries and (hopefully) keeping obesity at bay.
This site catalogues my walks around the USA including the people the meet, the food I eat, the places I stay and the things that I see. I’ve learnt to adapt Pop’s well-worn catchphrase to fit my own belief and I hope you take you can from it.