The Walk

Sunday:

I gotta tell you, keeping the brunch reservations your family made to celebrate Father’s Day when you suddenly don’t have a father isn’t something I’d recommend.

My husband and my brother-in-law, Sam, are fathers and deserved to be honored, but my heart wasn’t in it.

During brunch my Mom told us it was customary for the grieving family to walk around the neighborhood on the seventh (and last) day of Shiva, as she had witnessed many times growing up in an observant neighborhood in Chicago. We were invited to walk with her the next day, if we wanted to.

Walking around the neighborhood has also been a ceremonial way for families to walk with the soul of the departed as he begins his new path and they return to normal life.

Sure, like that’s going to happen.

I still expect my Standard Poodle, Fred, to greet me at my parents’ door, and he’s been gone since 1985. It’s going to take a lot longer to come to grips with losing my father.

We only “sat” Shiva for two days, but then again, we’re Reform. It’s not like we went out and partied the other five days; we all just tried to live with our loss together and alone. And we ate. A lot.

Monday:

Monday was the seventh day of Shiva proper, so my sister, Beth, Sam, my cousin Barbara, my kids and I went to Mom’s to walk around the block.

Before joining everyone in the living room, I stopped in the kitchen and glanced at the flame of my father’s Yahrzeit candle. It was floating in what was left of the wax, now melted, barely managing to stay lit after burning for the past seven days.

My family is used to laughing. Sitting quietly, looking at Mom, waiting for her to speak was something we barely even knew how to do.

I expected her to explain the solemn ritual we were about to perform. Instead, she said, “Okay, what should we order for lunch?”

Lunch? She wanted to talk about lunch? Why was I surprised?

We ordered from Jimmy Johns, but opted out of their “Freaky Fast delivery,” because we needed time to walk seven-tenths of a mile around the block first.

Before we walked, I mentioned that one of us should drive along in case anyone had trouble walking. I was concerned about my mother’s persistent foot issues, and my sister’s arthritis.

My mother said, “If that happens, we’ll just turn around.”

Okay. There were a couple of problems with that idea. First, walking back would mean walking the same distance, only in the other direction. Second, my parents street is in the shape of a giant circle. Once you started walking, you pretty much had to keep going.

After my car idea was vetoed, we began walking. My kids wore old flip-flops, my sister had a cane on one side and Sam on the other. Except for Barbara, who wore work-out clothes, we were the most incompetent-looking team you ever saw.

We passed the house next door… and kept going. I thought to myself, “We’re doing well. We’ve already walked further than I thought we would.”

Barbara, Veronica, and I led the pack. I looked back and noticed that Lucas was gently holding Mom’s hand and walking at a slower pace with her, Beth, and Sam.

I got to Mom’s driveway and turned to watch my family come home. Lucas was still holding Mom’s hand.

After lunch, even though none of us wanted to, we began to leave.

I stayed because Mom and I have always found comfort in knowing someone else is home, even if we’re not in the same room. She sat in the kitchen opening mail while I wrote in the living room.

I knew I’d have to go home, but couldn’t get the image of the candle out of my mind. I didn’t want to, but I needed to see if the flame had gone out.

I walked into the kitchen and was relieved to see that it was still burning. It was weak. It would be gone. Soon. I wondered if my mother was watching it, too.

I left while it still burned. Mom didn’t say anything about it, but I realized she chose to sit in the kitchen for a reason.

I’m sure my father will arrange for it to just quietly go out during the night when no one’s watching to protect all of us from sadness, the same way he always tried to protect us from sadness in life.

Tuesday:

Happy birthday, Dad.

Yes, we kept the reservations and are going out to dinner in your

honor.

20 Replies to “The Walk”

  1. Beautiful Leslie – We felt everything – totally.
    Thank you again for sharing.
    We felt like we were with you.
    I know you are going to dinner tonight and to the cemetery today.
    Consider our hearts with all of you –
    Whether walking slow or fast – it matters not – Norman was with you.
    xxoo
    We miss him very much.
    I know what you mean about expecting Fred at the door.
    Keep sharing.
    love – lots of it – to go along with the food.

    Carol & Scotty

  2. This was your best blog ever, so hard to write with your same sense of humor, but sooo beautifully written with a reserved dignity. I felt like I was with you or certainly wanted to be! You are one special lady coming from two very special people! Love you

  3. Beautifully written !
    We loved Norm and will miss him very much too. You have a lifetime of wonderful memories of a great man, father and grandfather. May your memories live long and strong in your hearts forever. You said today was his birthday, Happy birthday Norm, you are truly missed.

  4. How beautiful and so meaningful….from the heart. Today at exactly 5:33 pm the candle went out. It lasted longer than it should have….I take that as Dad’s way of telling us he really didn’t want to leave. He will forever be in my heart….love you

  5. Leslie and Family,
    I’ve been thinking about you guys all week. I’m glad to know you’re all together celebrating your Dad ‘s life. He was such a lovable guy and his spirit is with us all. Thankfully, we have many Normie memories to keep him with us. Love and hugs. Betty

  6. You are a wonderful writer, Leslie! As i read this to Mark, we walked every step with you and watched the Yarzheit candle and saw your mother sitting in her kitchen. Their kitchen, where we have sat many hours with them. Many lifetimes with your family. And loved you all. It is beautiful, Leslie. Beautiful.

  7. It is all too familiar and hearing it in your voice brings it all back and puts me right there walking around the block with you. Thinking of you
    Love Juliet

  8. Dear Leslie,

    This is such an amazing story and no one could have written it better. I forwarded this to many, many friends at school. You really honored dad in such a fabulous and meaningful way and really captured his essence. Humor and food have been and always will be very important to us and we will continue to live our lives honoring a great, fun and wonderful man, our dad, Normie.
    Love you,
    MOI

  9. Your lovely note is quite a tribute to a deserving father, husband; and good friend to all of us who knew Norman. In our case, Lorraine and Norman were Monday night, best friends for nearly 60 years, and people we were proud to call important in our lives.
    Time is supposed to heal everything. But it will take an extra amount of time to replace Norman in our thoughts and prayers. He was special to us. Lorraine is still special. And we hope she will continue to be and important part of our lives as we all make our way through the painfully Golden Years together.
    Lots of love. Condolences, of course. And we look forward to seeing you in August.
    Sylvia & Bob

  10. Oh, Leslie, this is so beautiful. It’s hard to type through my tears, so I’m in awe that you managed this through yours. I’ve never heard of the walk tradition, but I love it. This piece has perfect pitch. So many surprising details, like the circular street, and gentle Lucas. Your mom is so brave and determined. I love you and miss you. Good work, sister.

  11. Leslie:
    This was so beautifully written. Thinking of you and knowing that your dad was with you and your family every step of the way and that his light will never truly go out.

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