It was in many ways my roughest stretch in years. With rare exception every part of me was exhausted.  Aftermath perhaps from the stranded run in Chicago, but difficult nonetheless. I was spent. From office stress to time management through nagging health issues and gnawing wealth (?) issues, I was, as I told Carrie midweek, just trying to get through the week.

And so it was that hitting meetings, making calls and saying prayers, I fought hard that great urge to isolate. And still it was that as sun set Friday but one task separated me from the respite that would be weekend. It was Helen…and shopping at 5.

It’s not the same as it was (the Helen run). But what is?

The sound of her shoes, barely lifting from floor now bears a slower cadence, like the swoosh of too-thick corduroy slacks. There’s a gentleness to her these days— a “vulnerability” (God forbid you tell her) that’s marking her stride. She is losing it…running out of time…and she knows it.

We all do.

Was a time when she’d scrutinize, to the end….

“Check the sodium content in the Cheerios”, we’d hear, she over and over. (Like it was going to change on her watch. Like this would be the week they’d screw with the recipe).

There was a time too when she’d cook…

“Check the sodium in the latkehs,” she’d tell us as well. Or “What kind of store has chopped broccoli but NOT broccoli florets?” Oh! When they had them, she’d stock up like Washington preparing for winter at Valley Forge.

No more.

Not now. Not this past Friday. No more.  Today she is not what she was. It is, as Monk would say, “A blessing and a curse.”

Today she just goes for fresh air…for company…for life. Today she’s but mailing it in.

—And No, she can’t get to me now. Not like she used to anyway. I too sense the loss.  The days are gone, I now sense, where coarsely she’ll instruct on tomatoes.

 “Not too big, not too small…not too hard, not too soft….”

The days too are gone when dutifully H or I will rifle through bushels of Roma tomatoes—and this goes back to Marc’s at the original Cedar/Center (Alav Hashalom)—where we’ll intermittently (almost ceremoniously) pick them and toss them back until finally she was satisfied there’d been adequate sampling….

No, those days are gone. Gone, like the price tag they bore: 98cents/pound. Gone, like the then 98-year old, spritely pushing through aisles. Gone, YES, like the frustration of a nephew unnerved by an aunt.

We hit the deli last Friday, on our way home. It was almost Sabbath, and my aunt wanted soup with dinner. Slowly she trudged, from my car to Jack’s door. Slush…slush…slush, her feet barely lifting. I’d offered to run in and grab it, to let her rest in the car. “No,” she asserted, more gently than usual, beginning the inexorable march.

No, things aren’t as they were.  Neither her fire nor our ire.

It’s good to be with her these days…to watch her push on…as the clock keeps ticking…for all of us.

I’ve heard it said that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

There’s always a lesson.

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