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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