Last week I wrote about creating new memories and traditions to compensate for a parentless (or soon to be parentless) problem: the fading family blueprint.
Along with important medical and family history, I’ve lost little traditions and rituals that my mom and I shared, such as snacking in bed together while watching MLS soccer games. Going to see a movie (99.2% of the time it was a romcom) followed by a visit to Cheesecake Factory – a chain restaurant favorite. (Don’t turn up your nose until you’ve tried the Luau Salad followed by Aunt Linda’s chocolate cake.)
And while I miss these mother-daughter moments, the 18 months following her death have brought new traditions and rituals. For example, as honorary member of the Rutenberg family, I have a beach house! It’s in Bethany Beach, Delaware, and I enjoy sunning on the deck, visits to Candy Kitchen and fast walks in the morning with family.
Fast walking with Debbie actually became a ritual for me before Mom died. Debbie and I fast walked for the first time a couple months after her diagnosis. It took some time that day to learn the stride and how to pump my arms to my advantage so I could participate in the conversation without losing my breath. (When Debbie is feelin’ it, her pace is FAST.) I don’t exactly remember what we talked about that first day, but after a full hour of walking and talking, I remember feeling the best I had felt since before Mom’s diagnosis.
Subsequent walks included conversations about my parentless fears, her concerns about losing a best friend, realistic expectations for my mom’s prognosis, schoolwork, finances and much more. As my mom’s disease progressed, our walks together became more frequent.
We tackled the world on those walks (and we still do). When my mom was sick, we troubleshot her treatment regimen, scheduled chemotherapy appointments, brainstormed ways to elevate my mom’s mood and ultimately planned her funeral and my life after her death.
When I’m in Bethany Beach with the entire Rutenberg family, our walks include different combinations of us (i.e. whoever is not suffering from sports injuries or bouts of laziness). During our walks, we are open, honest and matter-of-fact with each other, even when we disagree vehemently. And no matter what, we always try to beat our previous time – Debbie, the fastidious timekeeper, with the beep of her Timex sports watch bookending our walk.
Today was my last fast walk at the beach for the season before I head back home to San Francisco. I know there will be more fast walks (on both coasts) across the coming year – some of those walks with a Rutenberg by my side and some with one chatting away in my ear, through my iPhone. But I can’t wait for our next fast walk at the beach, a newly born family tradition that brings me great pleasure and is probably a lot healthier than Cheesecake Factory’s chocolate cake.