38

38 – It’s the dying week, the week ten years ago when Herb’s courageous fight was ending. I was brave then. I pray I never have to be that brave again.

I need to walk. I need to walk more than ever right now, this weekend, and a nor’easter is coming.   Perhaps we’ll walk in the storm. Makes me wonder how life would be without walking with Leo.

I would miss the wind messing my hair and the sun in my eyes. I would miss the sounds of the deer in the woods, the crackling branches, birds calling, the pinkletinks. I would miss the salty air at the beach and the misty fog, the pitch dark nights and the yellow circle that my trusty flashlight shines onto the rutty dirt road.

I would miss watching Leo find his rhythm and start to strut. I would be lost without him, lost without walking. I miss Herb. Ten years.

37

37 – Leo and I walked around East Chop this morning early when the sun was brilliant and the wind blowing hard from the northeast. Sometimes the sea did it, tugged at my heart, but I was thinking about the years gone by, my age, being a widow, when I bumped into a special friend who was jogging. He was a beautiful soul, special man. I hardly ever saw this friend anymore. He and his wife traveled so much.

They were lucky. They still had each other. They faced getting old together, holding hands on the airplane, talking together, lying close late at night. The pain of missing my husband felt like a dagger and I wondered about luck, about life and friendship and love.

So my heart ached when I got home and I said it out loud, that I missed Herbie, that I wished he had lived a long old life with me and swoosh, that was precisely when the red-tailed hawk flew by and landed on the shed not ten feet away from me and Leo. I stood there a while watching it, marveling at its size, the strength of its thick body. It was a messenger for sure, from the ethers, from my beloved.

I thanked it for stopping by and cried a little. And then I went on with my day. That was key, moving forward.

36

36 – A brilliant biting wind this morning on East Chop while we walked. White caps in the navy sea, the sun in our eyes, we took the path by the beach rather than staying on the cliff. Leo loves exploring the different scents there, the brown frozen grass, the broken shells. I wonder sometimes if he smells his friends when we walk – ‘ah yes, my buddy the black lab has been here.’

A heavy heart again today with the news that my dear old friend Jon died. A fall down stairs. Imagine, all that risk taking in younger years, all those plans and dreams and sweet friendships and wild ideas and he was taken down by a fall. Jon, my friend who fed me coconut ice pops and played piano while I sang when my heart was broken.

Another lesson to stay in the day. Be in the sunshine, face the wind, I remind myself. Hold on to love and keep marching. Jon – master bluesman piano player, Ray Charles singing man, the guy with the biggest smile and most open heart, the dear teacher of our children, died falling down the stairs. RIP Jon.

35.

35 – Standing in the beech grove, listening to the soft rain and the creaking of the branches, my heart ached for the victims in Florida, for their families, for all the lost dreams. It made no sense. So much pain and suffering. Senseless loss.
 
And then a memory of sitting with Herb while he was waiting for a radiation treatment popped into my head. It was one of those memories I avoided, so sad, excruciating.
 
Herb was pretty down but doing his best to be brave and then he saw them, the line of wagons bringing the young children, toddlers really, by the waiting area. Nurses pushed the wagons with the multiple IV poles and the beautiful sick children, babies really, beloved kids.
 
Herb started to weep and then he was sobbing. I took his hand and after enduring such horrible surgeries, weeks of radiation and chemo, and knowing his cancer was terminal, he said, “I’m 56. I’m okay. I’ve known life, a good life. They don’t even know what normal life is. They may never know.”
 
And that’s the thing about those who died in the shooting, in all the shootings. People’s loves and dreams gone. Children. People’s children….

34

34 – My neighbor’s dog died this week. He was a bearded collie, a handsome friendly guy. He had a good long doggie life with a loving family who took him on long walks in the woods. Leo and I went to say goodbye to him at the end. He couldn’t see us or hear my voice or Leo’s barks and he could hardly stand, but he knew we were there. I got the feeling Leo understood. So sad.

And Leo has dog sniffles. I didn’t know dogs got such things, but apparently they do. I want to give him chicken soup. I sing to him, mostly Leonard Cohen, and then try to explain that he’ll feel better soon, that his nose will stop running. He looks at me with his human-like greenish brown eyes, cocks his head, and seems to understand that too.

So I take him for abbreviated walks and I sing a little more and snuggle a little closer. I am so grateful for my pup, that he’s not an old dog yet. I long for sunshine and for Leo to feel better so we can go on one of our long beach walks. We need the sound of the surf. It always makes us feel better.   And the wind. And no more sniffles.

 

 

 

33

33 – I wasn’t walking alone so I’m not sure where the melancholy came from but it swept over me like a wave, right as we were cresting the hill. I kept thinking about Zeke, the Springer puppy I lost, the day he learned to swim.

We were walking on the beach, Lambert’s Cove, heading towards the stream that cuts the beach in two. Zeke wasn’t on a lead. He was just prancing along unusually confident for a young puppy I remember thinking. He looked back at us a few times to be sure we were there. That dog was so handsome, black and white; curly haired with very long ears and thick white feathers on the backs of his legs.

I was concerned when we got to the stream. It had a swift current and was sort of deep in the middle. I didn’t know what Zeke would do, so we followed him into the saltwater as he marched straight ahead. I thought about picking him up but somehow knew I had to let him try this.

The water got deeper and still he walked across until it reached his neck and every part of him was under except his head. That was when it happened. He looked down at his right front paw as it rose off the sandy bottom, looked to the left, back to the right and then he was paddling, and finally, just like that, that little guy was swimming.

We clapped, patted him on the head when he got onto the other side of the stream and shook off on the sand. It had to do with feeling safe, I remember thinking, feeling secure enough to keep going forward and not flinching when it got scary.

Standing at the top of the hill, turning to head home, I thought about all I learned from my dogs. I just had to pay attention. “Right Leo?” I said, petting him. “Right?”

32

32 – Maybe it was the super moon that did it, but during my walk with Leo yesterday night, I was consumed with memories of my husband. “Talk to me when the full moon is out,” he wrote in the letter he left for me to find after his death. “I’ll hear you.”

So I do, each month, I do. I walk to a spot that’s open to the moon’s light, the middle of the lawn, the crossing of the roads, the center of the backyard and I talk to him about the kids, about my heart, about missing him. I say that I’ll never forget him, his love, that none of us will. And I mean it.

But last night while I was talking to him, I realized it wasn’t just that I thought he could hear me, it was something about the way I could feel the moon’s glow on my face, on my cheeks, that made me feel especially close to him. It’s a powerful thing, that full moon, the golden light, the beams on my skin. Usually I’m okay with it all, but last night I wept.

Leo looked back at me when we resumed walking. What’s the matter ma? Why the tears? I stopped to pat his back, to tell him I love him, my best pal. Life is simpler for him, love, good food, comfortable bed, warmth, long walks, just being there to comfort me.

Truth is the widow thing is hard sometimes, even so many years later, even now. I’ve done my best to keep marching, to keep my heart open, to stay in the day, to love again. And still my heart aches.

31

31 – Not sure what came first, the way my mind was racing or the pace that Leo and I were keeping when we made our way up to the horse farm. I guess we both sensed the storm approaching, because the wind was blowing like crazy and the branches of the white oaks were creaking, scraping against one another. Oh and the rain was on the brink of turning into sleet as it hit our faces.

Leo seemed determined to get to the farm as fast as I’d let him. He never pulled on the harness, but he walked ahead of me with his lead outstretched, not right by my side like he usually did. I think he wanted to take me on MY walk and get me home safely before the storm.

Me? I was trying to keep up with the flood of memories that were zooming through my mind. Not sure why, but the wind unleashed thoughts about other storms, hurricanes and blizzards, bringing in wood, shoveling the deck, scraping windshields while babies sat in car seats, kids throwing snowballs.

Sometimes I marvel at the amount of memories, the old films that play in my head. How can I be this age? How can my kids be grown? How do all the memories fit inside these fleeting moments I call my life? How could my husband have died so many years ago? And my parents?

Let it snow. I need a good storm tonight.

30

30 – Walking on Menemsha beach around noon, one fishing boat heading into the channel, the wind at our backs, the sand untouched but for one set of dog tracks, I watched Leo romping along the edge of the small dune. He stopped every so often to make eye contact with me. I’ve always loved how he does that, how he checks in for approval.

Made me recall a golden summer day when we were walking on the beach. He wasn’t even one year old yet. It was the day I decided to encourage him to try swimming. He’d never shown any interest. In fact, he seemed frightened by the sound of the tide turning the stones at the water’s edge.

So I picked him up and carried him into the water until I was waist deep in it. He looked up at me as if to ask what I was thinking. I don’t swim mom! I told him it was time to try swimming and he nestled closer to my body, but when I held him out I saw his little legs start kicking. It seemed so natural to him. I wanted him to try it.

I let him go and sure enough that puppy was swimming. Just like that, his legs paddled efficiently and he circled me once. But then he looked right into my eyes and headed for the sand. I did it mom. I swam. And now I’m heading in. So I followed him and he shook himself off and then came rushing to me for recognition. Well done Leo. Nice swimming!

He hasn’t shown any interest in swimming since then so I don’t push him. We both know he can do it if he wants. He’d rather stay on land. Me too. We are walkers, not swimmers, great walkers.

29

29 – Thinking there aren’t that many things that stick with you like the widow thing. It carves a piece out of your heart and leaves you to carry on like that, with the wind blowing through your middle. Many things come forward, new chances, new days, new weather, new thoughts and feelings and songs, but the widow thing remains.

But I chose life. I choose it still, so I press forward.

Today it’s sunny, not quite as cold, but it’s blustery in a way that moves me, not only physically because the wind at my back pushes me onward, but emotionally. Somehow the wind remains comforting, like an animal that won’t go away, like a faithful friend, something I can count on when my thoughts drag me elsewhere.

Almost ten years of widowhood and yet it could be a moment, or an hour, certainly not more than a day or a week. Love remains. Loss lingers. I keep moving forward, different scenery, different man, different dog, same heart, same memories, essentially the same me.

I suppose it’s not a bad thing. Life is short. Best to live it.