"What's your favorite song?" I asked my brother. "Favorite of all time?"
"Driver's Seat by Sniff 'n' the Tears," he answered. I admitted I'd never heard it. A few days later, we drove toward Savannah for another round of chemo. I kept both hands at 10 and 2, my eyes on the monotonous road that stretched between farmland and the occasional interruption of a small Southern town, while one of my brother's shaky hands held the ever-present red Solo cup, ready to catch whatever his body rejected and the other held a handkerchief. His head lay against the headrest and his eyes, their lids bulging and nearly translucent, stayed closed; weakness kept him from doing much else.
I'd tuned the car's radio to Sirius XM "70s on 7," one of his favorites. Periodically, I asked him if he was okay and periodically he answered, "I'm all right." Mostly, I let him sleep. Or, I stayed quiet, hoping he slept.
One of the songs ended and another started up. Suddenly, Van's arm raised up and his finger pointed toward the dashboard. I looked at him. His eyes were still closed, his head still back, and his hands still gripped the necessary items for incessant vomiting. But there was something he wanted me to see. I looked at the radio display.
Driver's Seat * Sniff 'n' the Tears
"Ah," I said. And then I listened. And I knew that he, too, was listening. Remembering another time. A better time of riding in his old '68 Dodge truck with his buddies, listening to this same song played on WBBQ out of Augusta, Georgia. Laughing … his entire life in front of him. No thoughts of sickness or death or dying. No holding on to a red Solo cup to catch his vomit.
And perhaps, as the song came to an end, he wondered why I'd wanted to know about his favorite song.
Clare and I sat in the Doolin B&B dining room and gazed out of the picture windows toward the Cliffs of Moher. After we ate breakfast, we would load the car and head over. I, for one, couldn't wait.
The gentleman who had greeted us the night before brought in large plates of an authentic Irish breakfast, which included "white and black pudding."
"This is for the lady named Clare like the county," he said, setting a plate in front of Clare. "And this is for the woman who thinks she's the mother of God." (See the last installment if you don't remember what this was about!)
Clare and I laughed, the began to eat. I started with the "white pudding," which looked like a typical patty of sausage. "This is good," I said, after finishing it. "What is it exactly?"
Clare answered, "Oatmeal, pork, and spices."
"Oh. Well, it was good." I pointed to the darker of the two servings. "What about this?"
"Black pudding," she answered. "Essentially the same, but made from blood."
I looked up sharply. "Are you serious?"
She laughed. "Serious. It's good."
I pushed the food from the center of my plate to the edge. "No, thank you." I'm daring, but I'm not THAT daring.
A little while later, we had packed, loaded the car, and then made our way to the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland's most famous landmarks.
The large rock that greeted us also held words warning those who were about to walk along the edge of the cliffs. Beautiful, but essentially a memorial to those who had lost their lives there. Scary to think about, but a look beyond and I see a steady line of those who have arrived before us and ignored the reminder. I know me well enough to know that I'll be one of them. Not one to fall over, but one to go to the edge. It's simply in my nature.
What can one possibly say about the cliffs that hasn't already been expressed? For nearly 9 miles, they rise like something out of a fairy tale. White gulls fly between the jutting rocky faces and cry out in the spray of the ocean's salty water. Lush spongy grass grows along their shoulders as waves crash against their bases to create a song only nature can compose. With the sun out and a decided chill in the air, we were beckoned to go where so many have already trod. Adventure awaited!
Clare and I began the hike, stopping periodically to take a photo. Or to simply breathe in the beauty of it all. The majesty. The wonder. Energy grew within me as we continued, going farther than some, not as far as others. Continued warnings were posted, yet no one, including us, seemed to adhere to them. We defied death in the height of such living!
After slipping through a few narrow passages--one that reminded me of the tablets Moses carried down Sinai--we came upon a small herd of cattle. I stopped to pet one--a fairly large beast--his head full of thick white curls. When I stopped, he butted my hand with his wide nose and I laughed.
And then the strangest thing happened. Limericks filled my mind--one after the other. "There once was a girl named Clare," I shouted into the wind. "Who went up to the cliffs on a dare ..." Clare joined in, adding a pantomime to my words. After several of these, I said, "Look at me! I've been in Ireland for only a few days and I'm speaking in limericks!"
When we'd gone as far as we thought we should, we turned to head back, walking along a somewhat muddy path until we reached one of the passageways. This one we had to step over, which placed us high above the world. I stopped long enough to gaze out over the farmland, over the gravel path before us, along the jutting earth and the ocean that dipped over the edge of the earth.
As far as my eyes could see . . . wonder. Breathtaking and inspiring. As far as my eyes could see . . .
I stepped over the rocks and toward a narrow man-made staircase, Clare right behind me. We had to keep going. We had to stay on the winding path.
We still had miles to go.