Grief and walnuts.

Today, Walter tried walnuts for the first time.

I was making pumpkin bars and carefully scavenged through the bag of walnuts. I tried to find the pieces that were mostly intact halves, so they would be an appropriate garnish – one for each bar. My sweet pup was unusually interested, as if the entire nut food group was completely foreign. I gave him a broken piece.

He trotted off to the rug in front of the back door and spat the walnut out. He sniffed. He put it back in his mouth and cronched down, then spat the pieces out and sniffed again. The sunshine dappled his face and the mysterious treat before him.

Pumpkin bars were on the agenda in honor of my friend Tanya, who favors anything pumpkin. I am taking them to a gathering of friends later this afternoon. We’re socially distancing in a garage where a TV and livestream are set up so that we can watch Tanya’s funeral.

If you don’t wear a mask, you are the reason we don’t feel safe traveling to and attending her funeral. And you can fuck right off.

So we will sit in camping chairs and weep openly. We will drink champagne – even though it always gives me a headache. And we will laugh and be so thankful for not being alone.

I’m trying to shift my thinking, away from the tragedy of it all. I’m trying not to focus on the insane pain of a 44-year-old dying of cancer, leaving three children and a soul-mate husband. I’m trying to consider the fullness of it – the fullness of knowing her, how she made my life bigger and better. How lucky is that?

Tanya would love watching Walter try walnuts for the first time. She would appreciate the wonder on his furry brows. Once upon a time, she insisted I would love artichokes. So she invited me over and made them and taught me how to eat them – like it was our special secret. I felt like a queen.

But right now? Right now, it’s hard to get out of bed. But I got out of bed to make bars. Because I am a Midwesterner, and that’s what we do. It’s all I can do.

And yes, this is what I returned to the kitchen to find. Walter must really like walnuts.

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  • Reply Becky October 1, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss.
    Clearly, Walter prefers the walnuts with pumpkin. Sorry about those too.

  • Reply Laura October 1, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    Oh, Walter.

    I am sorry for your loss – a loss made even worse (is that possible?) by these stupid trying times. I am glad that you can be among friends and your champagne headache will be worth it.

    And Walter is probably, mostly, sort of sorry about the walnuts.

  • Reply Heather L Wetzel October 2, 2020 at 1:03 am

    I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Tanya sounds amazing. Cancer is so un-fucking-fair. I looked at the picture first and was hoping that you and friends just took your spoons to the pan (middle finger to covid). The bars look beautiful all the same. Hugs.

  • Reply Ernie October 2, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Oh Becky. I am so very sorry for your loss. This sounds impossibly hard. I hate that you and your friends can’t attend the funeral, how unfortunate. Heart breaking. Praying for Tanya and her family and her friends.

    Walter’s little adventure made me smile.

  • Reply Lori in CT October 3, 2020 at 1:27 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll bet your friend would have laughed and laughed over the state of the poor pumpkin bars, oh Walter. Stay safe, I was glad to see you had posted again.

  • Reply Melissa October 11, 2020 at 12:21 am

    I feel like he ate those bars with particular enthusiasm.
    I am so sorry about your friend and having to deal with this NOW, when things are more difficult than normal, which makes death feel like a terrible sting. The best people always have to leave too soon, don’t they?

  • Reply B October 27, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Oh my heart. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend, and in disbelief for your friend’s soulmate and children. Your words bring to sensory memory the details of life we experience but never think to speak out loud. It sounds like Tanya was a master at savoring those moments. Although I don’t know her (or you) I should choose to be a bit like her more often.

  • Reply christal January 17, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend. It sounds like she was deeply loved and will be deeply missed, which is what I think most of us want from life.

    I’m also sorry that Walter enjoyed your pumpkin bars so much!

  • Reply suburbancorrespondent January 17, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    The lack of a real memorial service/gathering is one of the hardest things about this stupid pandemic

  • Reply Lou Clyde October 14, 2022 at 12:50 am

    I happened upon this tonight as I was stalking my Tuesday morning Pandemic writing buddy. You are such a gifted writer. You have the ability to make a reader laugh and cry and laugh again. Hope to see you at EBWW!

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