Picking blackberries on a late summer afternoon at the beach with my sweetie. She loves them. I love to pick them because she loves to eat them. I love to feel the brambles brambling me because I know she will love to eat that juicy little orb just out of my reach. I love to find just the right one—just the right one—right over there—the one that thought it could escape me.
But you know, I think I’m done. My plastic bucket isn’t full, but I can hear the tide nibbling at the pebbly beach, and suddenly more than anything I want to sit in my little canvas chair and watch the water come and go. I mumble something towards my partner, about ten feet away, she mumbles something back, some cozy communication that we’ve perfected over nearly 30 years of sharing our lives, and I pick my way over the salty rocks and the drifted wood to our two chairs, set primly together in the afternoon sun.
My balance hasn’t been good for years, the result of multiple sclerosis that has its way with me as it pleases, but mostly I’ve been able to manage. My partner knows when to help, when to back off, so she stays in her own tangle of blackberries as I stumble just when I reach my chair.
Blackberries scatter between the chairs. I groan as I sink into mine and gather up nearly every one that has spilled. After all, I hadn’t even filled the bucket. I couldn’t shortchange my sweetheart any further.
She joins me a few minutes later.
“Did you drop your bucket?” she asks.
“Yes,” I tell her, “but I got most of them.”
She looks at me oddly.
It would be a month before I found out that in fact there were only a half dozen blackberries left in my bucket, that the rest were still scattered about, and that she sat next to me for a few minutes scooping the berries off the pebbles back into my basket without me noticing.
Much later that evening, she managed to get home and put them in the refrigerator. After she did, she turned the car around and drove right back to the hospital where she had left me, unconscious after a stroke and at least three seizures, after an ambulance crew had dragged me off the beach and, siren wailing, taken me to the local emergency room.
She would never eat a single one of those blackberries.