by Jacqueline Jules (Long Island, NY)
It was his idea to go to Central Park.
“You love to walk, Mom,” he said.
He was 26, in law school, and not as a rule, the kind of son who suggested outings his mother would like. I suspected he felt guilty for begging out of the second Passover Seder at his brother’s apartment on the West Side. I could have absolved him. Could have said that one Seder was enough for someone who’d been glancing at his phone under the table all night. He always suffered stoically at Seders, not being a fan of matzah ball soup, charoset, or the long service his older brother liked to lead. His only joys at Passover were the brightly colored fruit slices everyone else criticized as being full of carcinogenic dyes.
“If you can’t come tonight,” I agreed, “a walk this afternoon is a nice trade-off.”
The weather was glorious for early April. Sunny and sixty-five degrees. His step was uncharacteristically peppy, pointing out blooming flowers he said I’d like. I panted sometimes, trying to keep up, not daring to ask him to slow down, afraid he’d think I was too tired to continue. Time alone with a grown son was worth sore feet later on.
He was a proud tour guide, insisting we visit Belvedere Castle, an attraction I hadn’t seen on any previous trips to New York.
Reaching the balcony and the panoramic view, he grinned at me, sharing the small endearing space between his two front teeth.
“I knew you’d love this, Mom.”
We leaned against the railing for a good twenty minutes, admiring the greenery, framed by the Manhattan skyline. I felt so full, so grateful he’d given me these precious hours.
“When I’m old and gone.” I touched his arm, rock solid under his light jacket from lifting weights. “Remember how happy you made me today.”
It was a year before his diagnosis. Colon cancer, stage four. Neither of us ever imagined what kind of gift this day would become, how at Passover, I would be the one left to recall our animated walk through Central Park in place of his bored presence at seder. His strong legs striding beside me, still pulsing with life.
Jacqueline Jules is the author of Manna in the Morning (Kelsay Books, 2021) and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications, and she is the author of 50 books for young readers including four Sydney Taylor Honor winners, two National Jewish Book Award finalists, and ten PJ Library selections. To learn more about her, please visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com.