I recently took up walking since moving near the beach earlier this year. It’s an old hobby of mine, but one I couldn’t enjoy for two years while living in downtown LA because of the constant fear of stepping in shit, getting run over by errant drivers or being knee deep in pain.

There’s still some dog shit to worry about, and the bikers can get a little errant as well. But ever since the cold weather let up, I’ve been out here every day, walking the strand.

However, my new hobby has come with some unexpected consequences. Namely, I’ve been knee deep in pain. It started with a dull ache, but now it’s a constant throb that shoots up my leg whenever I put too much weight on it. It’s an old high school running back injury that reminds me of my youth. I’ve tried everything from ice to compression sleeves to CBD topical creams at the recommendation of my grandma, but nothing seems to work. The pain persists.

Last night, as I limped along the boardwalk, phone in hand, trying to take my mind off the pain, I decided to call my twin brother, Tyler. We had a few missed calls between us over the past few days and I don’t like walking without a chat or two. But he didn’t answer.

So, I called my sister and the other sister and they didn’t answer as well. My girlfriend was taking an online class, so she was out, too. That left one more person. My mom.

It had been ages since we spoke, not because we were mad at each other but because we ran out of stuff to say. Previously, we’d talk about jobs, personal finances, she’d complain about her friends and her family and things that ached her. I figured now would be a good time to call her so I could complain about my aches as well.

“Hey Shay, what’s wrong?”

“Actually, my knee. How’d you know?”

She didn’t tell me how she knew, just that she was knee deep in pain as well. I’m glad I called, and I could tell she was glad, too.

We complained some more. I told her that I had some torn cartilage that keeps popping when I walk and that I could hear it over the sound of the crashing waves. It was fun, complaining. But as soon as I realized I was sounding like my mom, I tried to change the subject.

I told her I was recently promoted and that I successfully moved into the beach house without raking up a fortune paying for new furniture, and that actually, the knee doesn’t hurt anymore.

“Have you seen the price of gas?” she asked.

“I have not.”

“It’s outrageous. You should go to the doctor,” she continued.

“I just said I was fine.”

She didn’t care and told me to start taking care of my body and to relax about wanting a beach body, which I told her was my reason for walking so much.

“You’ll just get hurt in your old age,” she continued.

“I’m not even that old.”

My mom continued with my old age and said because I’m such a shit that I should be more careful. Her calling me a shit stopped me in my tracks, not because it wasn’t something I had heard before. But because her nickname for me ever since she adopted me had been “shithead” and not just “shit.”

I don’t know what made me ask about the nickname then and why I had never asked before. But I asked what it meant as I hobbled the strand, knee deep in pain.

“Shits are good. They’re good people,” she said. “They’re not afraid to get into trouble and they like to have fun. I wish I partied more like you when I was younger.”

As I weaved into the neighborhoods, she reminded me of a family trip we took to South Carolina. It happened when Tyler and I were 17. We went there to visit the beach and to switch it up from visiting our usual beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Being in a new place was exciting. So, Tyler, Alex and I snuck out of the hotel, went to a bar — where we were served Natty Lite cans without even being asked for an ID — and went to a house party. Tyler talked to some girl, pissed off her boyfriend. Next thing I knew, I was in the back of an ambulance, throwing up because I had been punched in the face one too many times.

It’s a great memory.

My mom brought that story up to show that even though I had gotten into a world of hurt on that trip, it didn’t deter me from traveling the world and being an international journalist. She said she was proud of me even if it did make her worry every day.

I limped up the hill towards my house and told her thanks and that I would take better care of my knee. We talked about visiting relatives in Missouri and how she wishes I would travel home more often.

“You’re so positive. Every one I know just complains. I wished we talked more,” she said.

I couldn’t help but think of the irony of her complaining about her friends complaining and said goodbye and that we’d chat soon.

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