My mom

So I took a walk with my almost-87-year-old mom yesterday on the Big Creek Greenway in Alpharetta, Georgia. This floodplain multi-use path is in a Metro Atlanta city not far from where I live, where she relocated from New York’s Long Island (where I grew up) after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 more than 21 years ago. She is a first-generation American, born of Irish immigrants. (My other grandparents were Slovakian immigrants. My husband’s grandparents were immigrants from several other countries.)

A life-long hobby seamstress and upholstery maker, she took up quilting at her new retired life stage after she arrived. She has since made dozens of quilts, one stitch at a time. Arthritis grips her hands and the quilt-making is slow-paced now. She is finishing them up. After our weekly walk yesterday, she passed off one of them to me, as I will now be the steward of this precious, priceless jewel of a creation.

These Sunday walks have become our favorite time together. She pushes a wheelchair a remarkable quarter mile or so before sitting in it and relinquishing to the lingering reminders of when a driver ran a red light, totaled her car and permanently disabled her (and almost killed her) in 2008. (Three cancers have tried their best to do her in as well.)

We look for deer, listen to the tree frogs and check on the progress of the sewer improvement project that lines the trail. We talk about the meals and activities at the senior facility where she now lives, and the active life she still enjoys beyond that.

We anxiously await the appearance of the thistle flowers and the subsequent butterflies, severely diminished last year due to preparation work for the sewer project that must have killed them off or kept them away. We remember that time just a little over a year ago when she joined my Biketober team, Trust the Journey, and helped us roll to a third-place finish regionally. (You don’t want to miss Go, Marge, Go! There’s even a video.)

There’s a bench where we take a break and sit and watch the people on bikes go by. We often talk about the many times she has bucked societal expectations and did something outside the box. About the many things she has survived. About how she has been a role model for myself and my daughters (who used to go to “sewing camp” at her townhome each summer) in so many ways regarding aging as a woman. So when you’re wondering, “What about your mother?” when you hear about my trip, Round America with a Duck (it’s one of the FAQ’s I get), this is who you’re asking about.

Right before she gave me the quilt, we were talking about this trip. Her jaw got stronger and she pointed in that way she does, and she said:

“What I’ve learned in life is that if there is something you want to do, no one is going to do it for you.”

My mother still has so many things she wants to do. As do I. As does my husband. As do our daughters. As do you. You are all on this journey with me, your hopes and dreams and strengths (and even hesitations, of which my mother expresses none) stitched right into the fabric of my soul.

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