When I had made my way to the far side of Central Avenue, Hot Springs main attraction with shops, spas and hotels who's "hay day" roared in the 1920's, I stopped. The day had begun outside of town at a Subway. The day before we had started from the Subway by Hot Springs Village. There was a Subway at this fork in the road, so I walked in for a cup of soup and a sandwich. There I met a young couple who had talked to me earlier as I walked the tourist gauntlet of pictures and questions. With more time, they now told me of a friend who had passed away the previous day. A young man with diabetes who never took good care of his condition, had lost his leg a month before but still found his way to the bar. They had found out he had died as they walked in the local hospital to visit a relative when they met another childhood friend who had been there at the hospital when the mutual friend had passed. This was another of many similar stories I had heard across Arkansas, not just in that state, where the end could have been different. Maybe it was "their time" to go, we three were there at the counter ordering relatively healthy meals, I can use the dear lost friends as an example to remind me how important is to take better care of myself. I have a long way to go, I have many bad habits to change. (Holding on to them "kicking and screaming" like child being torn away from a toy covered in lead based paint.) I went out and sat on the curb to eat between the World with Nice (the dog) and relaxed. As I ate I reflected on the journey from West Memphis, the many people and things I have learned along the way. I had walked to come to terms with a death and by talking about it a thousand times I did feel better. I had succeeded in bringing attention to diabetes while processing the passing of my loved one but I had also injured my foot (I downplay the pain) and with Thanksgiving a few days away I decided it really was time to stop.
Deciding it was time to return home was one thing, that happening meant i had to get moving and have "faith" that decision was a good one. I stood up to get my backpack on and roll on to find a place to end the day when my ride appeared with the added bonus of a hopeful tale concerning diabetes. It was a couple, the wife was diabetic and the husband had lost a large amount of weight. They helped restore some balance to the day dominated by tales of lost hope and victims to diabetes. We loaded the world on their truck and I enjoyed hearing the man's story about being near death from obesity and finding faith in himself to "turn his world around". My foot had been stinging with pain so their offer to transport us , world and all, had perfect timing. Once back at the van I let the air out of the world, loaded it into the back and returned to the fork in the road where I parked for a few minutes then decided to drive away into the sunset. Just then a woman called, she invited me to meet her son and husband but first told me of the annual Chili Cook Off that was just a few blocks away. I drove there instead of hurrying out of Arkansas and waited for them to get there. The event started a few minutes after I arrived. The family showed up as I had eaten my fill of chili samples. They invited me to stay at their home to shower and rest till morning, they didn't have to ask me twice. The fourteen year old son had been type-1 diabetic since age eleven, a fine example of lifestyle management. The whole family changed their diet eliminating sugars, monitoring levels and being active. The disease runs in the family and the young man had relatives who gave him examples of what not do. His dedication was inspiring, at fourteen he had one of the best attitudes about it. With two great parents, help from his community and a strong Will he will strive. An interesting coincidence is the two men, my ride and the father of the boy with the strong will, had worked together for years. Though it was time to stop, by the days end I felt it was not yet time to leave.