Regular readers of my main blog (Meanderings and Musings) may remember me speaking last January about the passing of my childhood friend Tee from breast cancer. One of the things that I have vowed I will do this year is walk in the Race for the Cure in September in her memory, and in honor of my aunt (who is a 15+ year survivor of breast cancer). Today would have been Tee's 38th birthday. I am still pissed about that. Breast cancer should not rob a husband of his wife, two children of their mother, two parents of yet another child (one of Tee's brother had passed away a few years earlier).
But tonight, we celebrated my father's birthday (from last Tuesday) and my brother's (this coming Monday) with dinner at our town's Greek/Italian restaurant. It's only about 2, maybe 2-1/2 blocks from the house, on the southernish edge of the business district. At dinner, my brother and I spoke of another nearby place which had been a convenience store when we were kids. It's now an ABC or red-dot store -- meaning state-licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
I mentioned offhandedly that I missed the Speedy Mart, that Tee and I used to walk up there at least 2 or 3 times a week in the summer, armed with about 50 cents, and could come out with a buttload of candy. Most of it was 2 for a nickel. Maybe a nickel each for the deluxe or jumbo varieties. Atomic Fireballs, Sugar Daddy, Lemon Drops. Maybe if we felt like REALLY splurging, we'd buy Pop Rocks (mmm! Pop Rocks!) and feel them explode all in our mouths.
Not long after my little trip down memory lane, my dad asked if I had my Powerball tickets for tonight's drawing. I responded that I would be picking them up soon. I had ridden to the restaurant with them, and figured we'd just run into the convenience store around the corner. And it hit me. I could walk home .... I could stop at the convenience store -- only a half-block if that much from the restaurant, then the two blocks home. Yes! By God, what a brilliant idea. So what if it's 7:45 and dark out?
So I did just that. I stopped at the store, bought two tickets, and began the short walk home. I remembered the times that Tee and I had walked this path so many times. I remembered another girl and I walking this way every day from school when we were in junior high. I thought of how much I hated walking home from school -- not because it was activity or because I hated to exercise. It hit me tonight on the walk home that it labeled me as a latchkey kid ... not that plenty of other kids at my school didn't have the same situation, but I just never liked the thought. I'd walk across from school over to the parking lot filled with student and parent cars ... and think, "Someday. Someday." Occasionally a neighbor or friend would take pity, especially in rainy weather, but those times were few and far between.
When my brother later went to that school -- then (and now) the middle school -- he had to walk home in 5th grade. In 6th grade, I was there to pick him up each day, in my big ol' honkin' car. I had a dog then ... what I should have done was meet him there with the dog and the three of us walk home, just like I'd done all those years ago. Instead I sat in my car, with the dog next to me some days, eating a Snickers bar and washing it down with a Jolt cola. BAD move. Twenty-five years after those initial walks home from school, I wish I had a do-over. I would have enjoyed the walks more. I would have relished that time and the good it was doing me.
So tonight, I enjoyed the short walk home, even in the dark and even with a very unfamiliar dog coming up behind me. When I got home, my mother said, "That was quick!" I guess it was. I just walked at my normal pace, which apparently has improved dramatically.
I thought of Tee as I walked, not just for the times we'd traveled those sidewalks, but for the paths we would never travel again. The path I am currently traveling, and the one I will encounter this September as I walk in her name.