When my son Liam was 14 months old and not yet walking, Brendon (his dad) was beside himself. It was already overwhelmingly clear that Liam was bright- his vocabulary was outstanding and he could even make simple jokes. Born huge, and decidedly staying that way, his long thin limbs and big, “blockhead” (as I lovingly call it) made it hard for him to balance. He’d been walking on his knees (thus wearing through the knees of his pants) for months. But no matter how hard he tried, it seemed Liam couldn’t find both balance and forward motion while on his feet.
On an unusually warm day in December in Saratoga Springs, while Brendon was at grad school, Liam took his first steps. For the next hour I kept Liam walking up and down a single block North Broadway. I wanted Brendon to see him walking as he pulled in the driveway. While we continued on this very short loop, Liam would pause, seemingly intending to stop completely and I’d lightheartedly cheer, “keep walking!” Finally Brendon came home to marvel at the overly-confident, pounding steps of a freshly walking toddler. It was awesome.
In the following months, as we’d be out in the world walking hand in hand, Liam would stop to watch a dog, or a car, or a bus, or smile at a stranger and I’d gently insist “keep walking”. As he got a little older, and would be puttering in front of me towards the house while I carried groceries and get distracted by an insect on the ground or a bird overhead, I’d suggest he “keep walking!” With each passing year, there’d be a new reason to nag him to continue moving forward.
He must have been about four the first time I wasn’t moving quickly enough for him, and he tapped my thigh and told me to keep walking. I found this both hilarious and annoying. Now that he’s 11, he still sometimes gently suggests that I (or if we’re in a particularly slow group) keep pace towards our intended destination.
As I recently quietly celebrated the 14th anniversary of my mother’s death, I was reflecting on how many things she’d missed out on, and was overcome with sadness. Grief, which is the dull punctuation on each important moment of my life now, has continued weaving in and out of my path in such a way that I almost stumble over it.
After crying the other night I thought about how I’ve been able to “keep walking” for the last almost decade and a half. That is not to say that I’ve always been able to keep moving in the direction that would take me towards where I intend to go (towards happiness), as I’ve made a significant number of pauses and encountered more distractions than I dare count, but more an acknowledgement of how far I’ve traveled since my mother’s death.
It’s only with the gentle nudging of the smart and loving people in my life that I am still here looking ahead. And it’s because of them that when I inevitably get off track, they reinvigorate me with the possibility of continuing forward.
Here’s to you, my Brilliantly friends. May we always have each other to walk with.