Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | September 5, 2015

keep ’em coming

My dear childhood friend, my early erstwhile lover M. is probably dying.

So says his sister R., with whom I have become happily, recently, friends.

For a time it seemed M. might never leave the hospital, but he has come home, to be cared for by his large and loving family. He is responding well to treatment, and currently things are looking up, although the long term prognosis is still dire.

When R. gave me this news, I told her: if there is a list of friends and chores, please add me. I can drive him to dialysis, clean the house, give respite care for those in the trenches. Whatever is needed, I can do it.

I have lived in that twilight world of sacred drudgery and I now know what it means, how it feels when someone is able to step up and lend a hand, in whatever capacity. For me, M. was one of those who stepped up to help.

I know that the simplest gifts echo in reverb for a long, long time – maybe forever. I have certain memories of tiny breathtaking acts of kindness that will never, ever leave me. I will never forget. Some of the most memorable gifts are from people I didn’t know very well in the Before. Maybe they’re close to me now. Maybe they were here just long enough to offer one thing, and now they’re gone again.

(They are like the stars
On a summer morning
They sparkle up the night
And they’re gone again
Daybreak, dawn again.

-our great poet, Joni Mitchell)

I also know how it feels when people can’t. When they step away, avert their eyes, disappear. No judgement here; I’ve done it myself: been simply unable to abide, witness, help. There are valid reasons someone can’t step forward instead of back, and the reasons are not always evident to the naked eye. Those who are your closest friends in your normal life may not be capable of staying when things get hard. I have seen that, and I have been that.

~

Before my J. fell ill, before he died, for many years, together we ran a bakery. The seed of the bakery came from pie. The summer I was 20, I worked at an infamous local restaurant, The Port Hole, and I made my first pie ever from the owner’s dooryard blackberries. I propped open a cookbook on the counter to peer at as I taught myself to weave a lattice crust. The pies were successful, and from that seed grew the bakery that my husband and I operated for 25 years, before cancer put an end to all that.

I don’t really do a lot of baking these days, except in certain circumstances I deem worthy, for certain people. I tell people I started the bakery so I’d have a job where I could keep my kid with me, and out of daycare. As that kid is now twenty-four, that ship has sailed.

(…while the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight.

-another great poet, Jackson Browne)

A few days ago, a delightful old bakery customer called out of the blue. His family used to eat lots of my pies, back in the day. They ordered them by the dozens, for Christmas, Thanksgiving, weddings, funerals. He told me his apple trees were heavy with fruit. Asked if he could bring by a hundred or so pounds of apples, if I could make them into pies.

Yes! I can do that! I ordered a 50# bag of pastry flour, some butter and sugar and spice, and got ready to make some pies.

Last night I saw R. at our favorite local watering hole and asked for an update. She said the family does indeed have a list, and that M.’s brothers and sisters are making up a schedule of duties needed. She said she mentioned to her brother D. that I asked to be included in any way that might be helpful. D. and I go way back. We are pals even if we don’t see each other much. We understand each other. We don’t have to be careful with language. We’re on the same wavelength. I guess you could say we’re simpatico.

D.’s response: “She wants to be helpful? Tell her to bake him a fucking apple pie!”

I didn’t even think of that! The simplest things are not always the most obvious. The gift you can offer most freely may not even be clear to you, until it is. Yes! I can do that!

So guess what I will do for M.

I will bake him a fucking apple pie.

And I will keep ’em coming.

Until he begs me to stop.

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