Yesterday, Edwige published this piece in NYT's "Walking New York" and I really enjoyed reading it so I thought I'd share
Without Her by Edwidge Dandicat
April 23 2015;
"I had walked the 15 or so blocks between the Newkirk Avenue subway station and my parents' house in East Flatbush for 25 years, but never with such a sense of dread. My mother recently died of ovarian cancer, and I wanted to revisit that stretch of Avenue D that she and I had sauntered, strolled, and marched along together throughout much of my life. I wanted to see if she would still be walking these same streets -- alone, invisibly, without me.
My mother and I walked for many reasons. When it was warm outside and we were both feeling heavy. Or when her doctor told her that she should walk between 20 and 30 minutes a day. Other times, we walked because she wanted to talk to me.
"Let me tell you something," she would say in Creole; "Ban m di w yon bagay." Then our walk would turn into a monologue about some issue of great concern to her: the fact that I wasn't going to church as much, or that I was not sleeping enough or taking better care of myself.
I looked so much like my mother, who had come to New York from Haiti in her early 30s, that people often mistook picture of her a a younger woman for pictures of me. Our bodies even moved the same, swaying a little bit from side to side, at a rhythm and pace that sometimes nearly had us colliding. I adore my mother and longed to collide with her, in lieu of a hug, which would have embarrassed her. My mother couldn't easily say, "I love you," but often during these walks her body said it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her watching out for me, for possible potholes and sudden dips in curbs. She would always take the street side so that she would be more vulnerable than I was to passing cars.
My mother and I were not always going to the same place. I was often going to college at Barnard and later to work when I was employed there. Back then, my mother was working at a textile factory in Manhattan, and she and I would leave the house together. If we'd just missed a bus, and the "dollar cabs" that followed the bus route were full, my mother immediately started walking to the next bus stop. Sometimes, we'd make it all the way to the subway hiking between stops, my mother harboring a look of worry on her face.
Later that night, I would hear her tell my father, "He yelled at me for being late." "He," I assummed, was factory foreman. She shared this not to gain sympathy but to remind herself that she could not afford to miss the bus. Winters nearly stopped our walks. But every now and the, we would have no choice but to make the trek, our breath forming clouds in front of us. Behind that frozen mist, my mother always notived that I was wearing the wrong kind of hat, scarf, or gloves, and I would see another kind of worry on her face.
"My only daughter, how are you supposed to get on in this world?" she'd say. "You will feel all this cold in your bones when you're old."
More than once, my mother and I saw a hearse pull up and a gurney with a sheet-covered body being pushed through the funeral home's side door. My mother could turn to me and say in Creole, " Nou rantre tet devan. Nou soti pye devan."
Most of us enter this world headfirst, then we leave it feet first.
She said it so many time that she sometimes abbreviated the words; Tet devan. Pye devan.
On the most recent walk, outside the funeral home on Avenue D, yet another gurney pulled up and was pushed through the narrow door. I noticed that the dead person's head was the last thing to disappear. And I couldn't help whispering to myself as I entered my old family house, Tet devan. Pye devan. Headfirst. Feet first.