Lately Mom has become interested in accompanying me on walks when I run.

Rybolt Road, looking toward Hayes intersection, 1941 (http://www.hamilton-co.org/engineer/historical.htm)

Saturday afternoon, we try to get access to the Oak Hills track. The blunt-faced, heavyset, former-athlete-type dad seated at the gated entrance taking tickets for some middle school event eyes me with annoyance when I launch into my track question. But he turns friendly and sympathetic when I explain that “me and my Mom want to walk” and indicate the 72-year-old woman in the green windbreaker behind me. Maybe I need Mom around as a prop more often! Still, no dice.

We end up at Fernbank Park along the Ohio River instead, the blazing red oaks and gold maples of this year’s Fall against an impossible blue sky and those glassy waves and the barges — so it’s a much better choice. I run two miles and she walks most of one.

Today, Mom wants to check out the walking trails she’s heard about at Story Woods Park in Delhi. We’ve never been there before. I stop by the house in the late afternoon, and we cajole Dad into going. “C’mon, the sun’ll be down soon, we have to leave now!” I say, and he ends up in the car without time for the usual vacillations.

We find the park across from a skinny white frame farm house with a red door once owned by Dad’s Great-uncle Henry and Great-aunt Sophie Gabelein, along with fifteen acres later sold and lost to the family. The surrounding area, rural and undeveloped, became a subdivision around Rapid Run School, and the house itself is now owned by St. Simon Catholic Church. Presumably the coal-burning furnace with the conveyer belt has been replaced! Sagging and set well back from the road with a few tall old trees still standing, it looks preserved from the Depression, simultaneously charming and haunted.

Mom and I convince Dad to try the longer “A” trail, 0.83 miles of crushed gravel and some hills, and we quickly find ourselves in a surprisingly remote area once owned by the Story’s, a wealthy Delhi, Ohio family. A freely flowing stream runs through the property. Big old sycamores and walnut trees have been hollowed out by animals, or covered with wild grape vines, or fallen and stripped smooth, giving the area a mossy, untouched appearance totally different from our nearby Mitchell Memorial Forest, which was cleared land allowed to return to forest,  filled now with uniform skinny saplings. Conversation turns to times each of us  has gone to the bathroom in the wild — Dad helping his Dad in the sod fields, Mom playing at her Grandma’s — and how to avoid wiping with poison ivy.

Mom hasn’t been walking for exercise much since before her knee replacement last summer, and Dad dropped off with obscure excuses. My legs and body are sore from a 5K race I did yesterday for “practice” that ended up being a hellaciously hilly course. So we’re all pretty evenly matched. On the big hill out of the park, Dad ends up ahead; my slow-motion leg swing reminds me of climbing out of the Grand Canyon with my cousin Erica in June. It takes us 25 minutes to complete the 0.83 miles.

Rybolt Road, looking toward Hayes intersection, 2011

On the way home, Dad reminisces. “I can remember those days so well,” he says about taking his Great-aunt Sophie out for a drive as a young man after his Great-uncle passed away. Just recently, in a local welding shop, he saw photos on the wall of his old Rybolt Road neighborhood from 1941! He would have been four or five. The guy working there still remembered his dad, who died twenty-two years ago. Dad keeps giving me the website of the photos to look up.

Mom says they might be interested in going to Fernbank with me tomorrow, either walking or riding their bikes. I’ll call them.