Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: His Mother’s Name was Bessie.

beautiful bessie

Beautiful Bessie, the Bass Man’s Mama.

I’m taking a break from the all consuming Big C conversation for just a moment to share this bit about a sweet lady, E’s Mama Bessie.  He misses her dearly, especially now when confronted by the fragility of life.

On the day before 94-year old Bessie died, she announced to her younger son Larry that she was breaking out.

Clear out of the blue.  A declaration of independence so foreign to her nature that it was unfathomable.  Disarming.

Feeble and frail. Yet in the end, so fierce in her final conviction.

“Where are you going Mom?” he asked

“To New York City!” she proclaimed.

Bessie, who had never been more than one hundred miles from her small county home.

Bessie, who as a young girl spent a week up on the mountain, just a few miles away, was homesick and fearful.  She pined for her mother.  And missed the familiar valley farmland and apple orchards.  To young Bessie, this overgrown hill was much too high and close to the sky. Too far away from her roots and the bosom of the valley bed. It threw off her equilibrium.  Left her shaken and traumatized for life.

Bessie, whose wanderlust didn’t extend beyond a Sunday drive down to Waterville for lunch with Harlan.

Bessie, who had lost most of her sight and hearing, but none of her unpredictable wit and natural intelligence. To the end, razor sharp and fully loaded with an arsenal of quick retorts.

Bessie, who lived a simple life surrounded by “her people.”  Married Harlan and raised her boys just a stone’s throw from her childhood home.

Bessie, who never strayed far.  Always walked the straight and narrow.  Found dignity in the familiar and commonplace.

Yes, this same Bessie, on the Eve of the trip of her lifetime, revealed that she was now ready to travel.

Godspeed Bessie.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. What Were You Thinking?

E before he quit smoking.

E before he quit smoking.

I’m not a mind reader.  I don’t have X-ray vision. No telepathic abilities that I’m aware of.  I’m definitely not a clairvoyant and the last time I checked I don’t have ESP.   But on occasion I do have an acute sixth sense.  Like Spider Man.  Sometimes I just know something’s up.

Such was the case the night we went to visit a gravely ill friend at the hospital.

After two decades together I thought E and I shared everything.  Our thoughts.  Feelings.  Fears.  But I learned that with this cancer thing, that wasn’t true.  Fact is, no one really knows for sure what’s going on inside another person’s head.  Nor do we know the things kept tucked away in timorous hearts.  Our interior worlds are ours alone. We share what we share.  Give what we give. Reveal only what’s comfortable or safe.  We’re transparent at times.  But more often than not, opaque.  The proverbial window into a person’s soul is often dirty.  Foggy.  Obscured. Dark and scary.

We rode up the hospital elevator to the seventh floor in easy silence. Each in our own private world. Elevators have this affect on us. I watched attentively as the red digital numbers over the doors changed.  Floor by floor.  Thankfully no one else joined us on our ride upward. I wasn’t in the mood for company. A fleeting thought of our sick friend crossed my mind.  Followed by an unsettling twitch of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  I took a gulp of air and let it out with flapping lips.  I sounded like a horse snorting.

Just before the doors swung open, I glanced over at E.  There was something about his expression that concerned me. Did it bother him to be back in a hospital?  Was he looking down the road to the day he’d have to return?  Was he afraid?

The doors opened.  We stepped out into the bright glaring lights of the corridor.  A startling contrast from the dimly lit elevator car with its hypnotic hum.  The steel box that confined and contained our emotions.

Boom.  Reality hit.  Raw.  Intense.  Chilly.  I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“How do you feel?” I blurted out.

“I’m fine,” he auto-responded.

“No, how do you really feel?” I persisted.

“I’m tired,” he exhaled fully, releasing weeks of held emotions.  “And depressed.  I don’t know if I’m tired because I’m depressed.  Or depressed because I’m so tired.”

“I understand,” I said.

Finally some truth.  A place to start.

For the first time in a month, E fully understood that he wasn’t alone.  He had me.  No matter what.  Although the cancer was inside his body, the journey was ours.  We were in this together.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.  We were a shameless spaghetti western.  Clint Eastwood, this movie belonged to us.

The next day I sat down at my computer and wrote this poem.

The Truth About This Thing Called Cancer

Yesterday when we got off the elevator at the 7th floor

And we were heading towards room 721

To visit our friend who was back in the hospital

Having a blood transfusion

In preparation for surgery the next day

His third in nine months.
His body was covered in scars

From years of cuts and mends

Repairs and retribution

A missing foot

An ulcer on the other

Now in peril.
But this isn’t about him.
I asked you how you were feeling

Really feeling

No fake bullshit

No more keeping secrets.

 

I’m a big girl

I can hear the word cancer

The Big C

Without wanting to dive

Into the river of terror.
I’m your love

And you are mine

We’ll do this together.
So you confessed.
You said that even though

You laugh and joke

Put on your happy face

There are times that you feel tired

And depressed.
You sleep

Because you are tired

Which makes you depressed

So you sleep

To make the depression

Go away.

 

You can’t tell

The cause

From the effect.
I told you that I understood.
But the truth is

I only understand

Half of the equation.

 

I don’t know cancer

But I know depression

And the desire to sleep it away.
I know love

And the power it wields

The healing it contains

For both of us
I told you right from the start

That all I ever wanted

Was for you to

Tell me the truth.
And that goes for this thing too.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Wait This is an Emergency.

Boo and The Bass Man share a moment.

Boo and The Bass Man share a moment.

The ER is a dreary place.  Even more so at 2:00am.  It was quiet. Eerily so. I don’t know what I was expecting. A scene from the television show perhaps.  Blood, guts and gore spilling from victims of violent Chicago crimes. A young George Clooney flashing that seductive smile my way as he shouted a litany of incomprehensible medical terms at the actors pretending to be medical professionals.  There wasn’t any of that.

We spoke in hushed voices and politely waited our turn at the admittance window. Victims of our own personal trauma unfolding. No blood, just drowning in fear.  There was a surreality to the scene.  A bit like a lucid dream. We could have been waiting to buy a ticket at a Greyhound station.  Abysmal.  Everyone looked forlorn.  Like we were all buying tickets to the worst place in the country.  Fill in the blank.  We all know the place.

I remember feeling tired.  Deep into my bones.  I wasn’t up for this.  Whatever this was.

Our fellow sojourners that night were all equally fatigued and battle-worn.  There was the middle-aged woman holding her side.  She couldn’t conceal her pain.  It was written all over her face. Her son sat next to us on the bank of stiff chairs attached to the wall, secured to prevent theft I suppose. You never know in a joint like this at 2:00am.  She gave her details to the nurse behind the wicket.  I listened attentively to the conversation, as though this were my mother.  Hung onto every word like it was my business.  I’m a hopeless eavesdropper.  I can’t help myself.  It’s all fodder for stories.  You never know when or where this little scene, this bit of dialogue, these crestfallen characters will show up in my next story.  I’m always on the job.

On the other side of us was a drunk in a wheel chair.  He had “attendants” who were some sort of hybrid of a cop/EMT/ambulance driver.  It was hard to tell.  There were two of them.  Burly but soft-spoken.  They were taking a kid gloves approach with this guy but at the same time you could tell they weren’t to be messed with.  The drunk guy was paranoid.  The nurse needed to take his temperature but he refused to let anyone touch him.  He told everyone to ‘fuck off.’ I wanted to oblige but we needed to get E admitted.

At one point the drunk pulled a disappearing act while the attendants were discussing his situation with the nurse.  He vanished like Houdini through the hospital green doors right behind their backs.  There was a tattle tale, or two, in our paltry group.  When the attendants realized their charge was MIA, sly index fingers were pointed in the direction of the door.  Not a word uttered.  Just poker faces and sleight of hand as we easily gave up one of our own. I learned that waiting room bonds are easily forged and just as easily broken.  The attendants swiftly retrieved their drunk guy.  He managed to spit a few more ‘fuck offs’ before they wheeled him away.  I don’t know where he ended up. There’s always one rowdy in the crowd. He was a good distraction though so in a kooky way I’m grateful he was there.

It was finally our turn at the wicket.  I did all the talking because by this time E was incapable of doing anything but drool. Questions were answered, temperature taken, plastic identity bracelet attached to his left wrist, and then our weary little band of three followed the footprints to “room” 15, the vast repository for the suddenly stricken.  E stretched out on the narrow bed while M and I grabbed chairs and positioned them on either side.  Enclosed in white curtains on three sides, we were directly in front of the nurses’ station and had a panoramic view of the entire room.

The place was full but it too was uncannily quiet.  Occasionally someone moaned or coughed.  At one point the person next to us started to snore.  I found this comforting.  There was a scruffy bedraggled guy, who looked like he had spent one too many nights on the street, sleeping peacefully on a gurney in the open space next to the nurses.  An elderly woman was slumped in a wheelchair.  There were two little kids playing with another wheelchair nearby.  It was as if they had been scooped from a playground and transported to this place for my amusement.  It made me smile.

There wasn’t a doctor in sight.

E was hooked up to a machine that monitored his vitals.  I watched it carefully for clues.  If the top number goes up, is that good or bad?  Why is the smaller number changing constantly? What’s going on inside of E’s body?

A lovely, kind nurse came and took E’s temperature and checked his blood pressure.  She made the usual cheerful chitchat that people in the profession of caring for others do so well.  Calming.  Reassuring. Soothing.

Everything was going to be okay.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Demon in the Dark.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

The Bass Man and Boo in our garden.

On Thursday, December 6 at 1:00am my world was rocked.  Not by my teenage daughter playing her music too loud.  Nor by the sound of a car stereo blasting its way past our quiet house.  No, this was far more sinister.  And threatening.

I woke up to the disturbing sight of E in the hallway holding his head in his hands like a pumpkin leftover from Halloween.  He must have switched on the light because I could see him so vividly heading towards our darkened bedroom. Like a zombie, one of the characters from The Walking Dead. He was stumbling and mumbling.  I had been sleeping and had no idea what time it was, nor did I comprehend the scene that was unfolding.

Startled, dazed and confused I leapt from our bed.  E stopped and did a 180, then shuffled off into the bathroom.  I followed.  I stood in the doorway and watched as he draped his face over the toilet bowl.  His mouth agape.

“What’s wrong?” I cried. “What’s happening?”

E sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles.  Saliva was pouring like clear corn syrup from his open mouth. A steady viscous stream of treacle. He continued to hold onto his head like it was a bowling ball.  Burdensome, heavy and tiring.  One false move and it could slip from his hands.  Shatter everything.

Terror-struck, I asked again what was wrong.

This is what I heard:

“Biopsy.  Cancer.”

This is the frenzied conversation that followed:

“Cancer!  No-no-no!  What do you mean?  What do we do?”

“Call 811.”

“811? What is that?”

“The nurse.”

“I’m calling a nurse?”

“Yeah.”

So I called the nurses hotline.  I was still dazed and confused.  Still hadn’t registered what was happening. Everything was haywire. A living nightmare.  A million thoughts were exploding in my mind all at once.  I went from zero to the deepest darkest scariest place in no time flat.  I lost it briefly.  And then jumped into action.  It was the only thing I knew how to do well.  Act.

In our retro 40’s home, we have a little alcove in the hall where the phone is hung.  It is directly across from the doorway to the bathroom so I had a clear vantage point to E’s agony.  It was gut-wrenching to witness my love, my brawny man, so vulnerable and in such pain.  Heartbreaking to see his beautiful blue eyes gripped with anxiety and distress.

I began to have this two-way conversation with E and the lovely (and calm) nurse on the other end of the phone.  Her voice was soothing.  Comforting.  Reassuring.

I still didn’t understand fully what was going on at this point.  I just knew it was bad.  In every sense of the word.  I explained to the nurse, as best I could, the symptoms that E was presenting.  I’ve never been adept at understanding people who don’t speak English very well.  I’m embarrassed to admit that accents are my Achilles Heel of communication.  The mumbo jumbo dripping from E’s mouth was way beyond that.  Nothing made sense.  Partly because I was in a state of shock and what he was saying was simply unbelievable.  Mystifying. Inconceivable.  And partly because E was incapable of talking.  It was like his mouth was full of bad food or dirty socks.  Every word labored.  Garbled. Distorted.

If it hadn’t been so terrifying, it would have been quite comical. We were participants in a game of charades where I had to “guess the symptoms.”  I managed to figure out that he was experiencing severe pain in his mouth.  His tongue was swollen.  He couldn’t swallow.  Saliva was pouring by the bucket full into his cupped hands.  But he had no trouble breathing.  The silver lining in the black cloud hanging over his head.

The nurse listened patiently and then offered two options.  Either call an ambulance to take E to the hospital.  Or drive him there.  Since it was E’s life I gave him the choice.

Within minutes E, our daughter M and I were on our way to the hospital.  I drove while E sat next to me in the front of the truck.  M sat in the bumper seat in the back of the cab, her University textbooks in one hand, cell phone in the other.

The nerve-wracking journey across town was long, dark and eerily quiet.  We hit every red light, which only exacerbated my frustration and fear.  It seemed to take forever to get there.

As I drove I took E’s hand and held it tight. I didn’t want to ever let it go.  Tears began to flow. Then anger.

We had a brief conversation that went something like this:

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having a biopsy?”

“I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Worry me?  Look how well that worked out for you.”

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This is The Man we all Love.

Sitting in the window of an abandoned farmhouse.

I have written a lot posts for all the magnificent Girl Warriors in my life.  My strong, fierce and beautiful daughters, grand daughter, daughter-in-law and the original warrior, Ma. Plus all the others, near and dear to me.  All glorious inspirational women.

I also have a son.  He is equally magnificent in my eyes.  Yet in many ways he’s a mystery to me.  A charming and perplexing enigma.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a boy and at the end of the day I must admit that I don’t fully understand the male species.

I was young when he came into the world.  So was he.  In truth, we grew up together.  He has taught me much since that wondrous day when I looked into his dark raisin eyes for the very first time.  I am eternally grateful for all the learning through the years. Even the difficult stuff.  I’ve probably learned more through those experiences than from the easy breezy butterfly days.

So many rights of passage we shared.  The holding close.  And the letting go.  All those milestones.  From the first step.  To the walk across the stage to receive his degree.  Everything in between.  Proud mother moments.  Heartbreaks and heroics.  Flights of fancy and family ties.  Unbreakable bonds.  Love is born.  And grows eternal in this mother-son relationship.

He stands shoulder to shoulder with the three other good men who I love dearly.  My strong and gentle big brother, my solid husband and my complicated father.  Each seemingly different.  At least on the exterior.  At once complex and full of mystifying layers.  Yet also sublimely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Always sincere.  Forthright.  Honest.  Kind.  They are the faces of strength, courage and tenderness in my often anxious world.

The 10 Steps to Becoming the Man We All Love:

The Old Man was so delighted with his grandson.

1. Be your own man. Authentic. Genuine. 100% bona fide you. The real thing.  Don’t be an impostor.  Nor live a vicarious life.  Grab a hold of what matters to you.  Put on your own jersey.  Strap on your own skates.   Play the game you love.  Not someone else’s.  Be an original.  A maverick.  The natural.  Always be the guileless boy who looks at the world with wide-eyed wonder.  Forever rub your hands together with glee and pure joy.  Be the spontaneous boy. And the solid man.  Work with your full range of emotions.  Express yourself completely.  Thoroughly.  Freely.  And if a tear falls. Let it.

2. Be brave-hearted.  Stand tall.  Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Know that all courageous men have fears. Life is scary sometimes. For all of us.  Don’t be a victim.  Instead be valorous.  Do no shrink.   Roar.  Hoot and howl.  Feel the fear and get on with it.  There are no boogeymen under the bed.  No monsters hiding in the closet. Myths.  False emotions appearing real.  That’s all.  And always remember that you are far bigger than your fears.

My big brother with my nephew and my son sharing a cuddle.

3. Get a real kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend.  For vacation.  Or another time.   Play right now.  Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Shake your tambourine.  Laugh your guts out.  Make a fool of yourself. Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Surround yourself with the lighthearted ones who put a smile on your face.  Take delight in every minute of this life you are given.

4. Be a loving man. And you will be loved.  Guaranteed.  More than you could ever imagine or dream. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Don’t run from it.  Strong men have the guts to be tender.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Be a Gentle Ben.  Tom, Dick or Harry.  And remember, love isn’t always perfect.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  That’s okay.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Love refines your heart and grows your compassion muscle.  Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped.  It may be completely different from what you had in mind.  Better even. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to you.

The proud uncle with his lookalike niece.

5. Find your tribe.  Your band of sisters and brothers. The ones where you fit in.  Belong. Feel at home with.  For these will be your family.  Some related by blood.  Others by the heart.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you.  By your side.  Through thick and thin. The ones who have your back.  Who pick you up when you fall. Help you find your way home in the dark.  They’re with you no matter what. No questions asked.  No doubt about it.

6. Follow your passions and the things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Jazzed and ready to go.  Have big dreams.  They don’t cost any more than the small ones. Your life will be so much richer for it.  Do the things that you love to do first.  And everything else will fall into place. Be enthusiastic.  Get psyched.  Pumped.   Gung-ho.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour of discovery.  Go on an adventure.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and move on.

My son with “his lady” in Scotland on the adventure of their lives.

7. Be generous and magnanimous of spirit. With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little. Or a lot.  But give. This isn’t necessarily about money.  Nor material things. It can be. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got it.  Give it.  But it’s also about giving of yourself.  Your time.  Your energy.  The natural gifts you came into the world with.  Take every opportunity to share these with others.  The more you do, the bigger you will be.  This will make you happier than anything you ever imagined.  For the more you give, the more you receive.

8. Be honest.  A man of your word.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Nor intend to.  Be a man of integrity.  Honorable. Upstanding. Someone you can rely on.  Depend on.  Be the good guy who shows up.  Even in the stickiest of situations.  Know that when you shake on something that you are doing more than pressing flesh.  You are giving your word.  Your bond.  Don’t violate this sacred trust.  Respect others and you will be respected in turn.

My two lovely men standing tall at our wedding.

9. Defend and stand up for something.  Be righteous. Not self-righteous.  Find causes close to your heart.  Help those in need.  Shelter the weak.  The young.  The very old. Once you accept the challenge, don’t put conditions on who you’ll help and who you won’t.  Raise the bar on compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Embrace your fellow travelers.  Meet them eye to eye.  Carry the placard.  Wear the colors.  Pin on the badge.  But don’t force your beliefs down the throats of others. This is not a persuasive approach.  Don’t cloud the issues with misplaced anger.  This just creates mindless noise.  Be humble. Not sanctimonious.  Charitable.  Not complacent.  Be a leader when called upon.  And a follower when the time is right.  But most importantly, be a man that everyone wants in their corner.

10. Take care of yourself.  Do whatever it takes.  All the days of your life.  Not just physically.  But mentally.  And spiritually.  Do it for yourself.  And for all the people who love you.  Be active in every arena of your life.  Find your sport. Get out there and move.  Join a team.  Or go it alone.  Play hockey.  Or a round of golf.  Walk the dog.  Or chase the kids.  It’s all good.  Learn to cook and eat well. Spend time looking inwards.  Take a moment for introspection.  Meditate.  Pray.  Go for walks alone with your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.  And “to thine own self be true.”  Do these things and you will be the man we all love.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Everything Scares Me.

I was even too afraid to smile in my Kindergarten photo.

I have fears.  I have always been afraid.  Everything scares me.  Anxiety has haunted me from the beginning, probably even in the womb. Perhaps there is deeper meaning to that first cry.  I have no conscious memory of not being anxious about something.  In fact, fear and anxiety have been such an indelible part of my life I suspect on some level I’ve grown comfortable with this diabolic duo of emotional destruction.

I’m an ordinary woman who has always longed to live an extraordinary life.  And in some ways I do.  I look back with wide-eyed wonder at the life I have led, the people who have surrounded me, travelled this journey with me.  I’ve come a long way baby!  From the little girl trembling and weeping on her mother’s knee because she didn’t want to go to kindergarten without her to a fully evolved woman with accomplishments, skills, adroitness, and stuff under my belt.  I’ve had the privilege to have met and worked with sublimely talented people, who have shared their gifts with me and enriched my life, both professionally and personally.  I’ve fallen in love, married and had children, who have sat on my knee and wept.  What an honor to be their mother and to have dried their tears. Yet through it all I have been afraid.  Some days just getting out of bed is an act of courage.

It’s a miracle that I’ve done anything with my life.  I don’t recall what got me off my mother’s knee and into that kindergarten classroom. I don’t know what she said or did.  But I do know it required faith and trust. The flip side of the coin.  The antithesis of the diabolical duo.  Faith that someone or something was out there watching over me.  Trust in my mother, that she wouldn’t lead me astray nor send me somewhere that would cause me harm.  I was her dear one.

I tried a slew of things to overcome this underlying malaise that colored my days including reading copious pop psychology books.  In turn I became a perennial student of self-help, a physician to my subconscious wounds and minister to my spiritual being.  Some of these books were helpful, downright inspired, especially those written by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  I think I’ve read everything he’s written from Your Erroneous Zones to the one I’m reading right now, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life.

In addition to books, I took fitness classes, practiced yoga, tried meditation, attempted creative visualization, ran my butt off, rode my bike everywhere, hopped on an elliptical machine every morning for a year, and I walked and walked and walked.  I still run five mornings a week, practice yoga every morning prior to the run and I walk almost every day.

All of this mental and physical activity has helped.  But nothing has helped more than the time I spend in quiet solitude writing my letters to God.  Sometimes it feels a bit like we’re pen pals, albeit a tad one-sided. And other times it feels like unrequited love.  No cards.  No flowers.  No love letters in return.  But bit by bit, day by day I’m learning to trust in the process of life.  I’m slowly letting go and letting God. And I tell myself that I was Ma’s dear one.  And I like to think that I am God’s dear one too.  Only good can come from a relationship like that.  Nothing to fear.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Walk Talk And Listen.

Ma and Me on the town in our snazzy slacks.

I love to walk.  Alone.  Or with dogs.  Sometimes with people.  But mostly I like to walk alone (which sounds like the title of a good country song but that’s another story.)

I didn’t always.

A little back story.  I have a long history of walking, which began with my mother.  She too loved to walk.  She didn’t drive so in order to get around and maintain her independence, she walked or took public transit, which in our town meant the bus.  When my father wasn’t working, he drove her to and fro, mostly to the grocery store and the plaza, which eventually flourished and grew into a mall.  Progress.  But I digress.

I loved walking with my mother.  And talking.  Ma wasn’t a big talker, but she was an excellent listener.  This gift alone made her an extraordinary conversationalist.  She was quite simply, transcendent in this talent. With Ma, there was never any competition for airtime, cutting off mid-sentence, interrupted chains of thought, one-up-man-ship, running rings around, nor upstaging in quick wit and repartee.  She was a delighted, polite and interested listener.  I liked that.  I could pour my heart out and bare my soul endlessly and still she listened, with kindness, patience and love.  She offered her opinion when asked, her advice when needed, her consolation and comfort unconditionally.  I liked that too.

I think over the years Ma and I must have traversed thousands of miles and covered an infinite array of topics while doing so.  Everything from soup to nuts (literally).  We solved all of the world’s problems, or at least had a few good recommendations.   We walked off pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear, and a few extra pounds.  We laughed.  We gabbed.  We gossiped.  We wept.  We commiserated.  We stopped.  We started.  We looked back.  We looked forward.  We thought we could walk forever.  At least I did.

Although Ma is no longer with me physically on our walks, she is with me none the less.  I have conversations with her in my head.  I still seek her advice.  I still hear her laughter.  I smell her face cream, subtle and clean.  I ask her about God.  Is there anything I need to know Ma?