I groaned. "Can we finish the wine first?"
She ignored me and told me she appreciated my willingness to ask for better rooms in hotels and better tables at restaurants. She appreciated my sense of humor, she said, and I knew that one was true: I made her laugh so hard that she had to stop on the trail and cross her legs.
I told her I appreciated how hardy she was — nearly 70 and walking long wet days with little complaint. I appreciated that when we hit a rough spot, she was quick to recover and offer a hug. And I really liked that every morning, she got us going with a cheerful, "Are you ready to walk?"
The last few days flew by, and before we knew it, we were heading home. On the flight I remembered the taxi driver in Dundee. Hearing of our walk, he appraised us in the rear-view mirror. "And could you find nothing better to spend your dollars on?" he asked.
In the hushed cabin far above the Atlantic, I thought: No, sir. I can think of nothing better than to walk along an unfamiliar coast with the person I've known longer than any other, sharing a physical trial that becomes a bond, traveling light so there's no room for grudges, giving ourselves time to walk off minor irritations and ambling ever closer to a relationship that wouldn't have been possible 20 or even 10 years ago, when I, at least, was sure I had all the time in the world.
We parted at the airport that evening, but the next morning I gave my mother a call. I said what she had been saying every morning and which I missed already: "Are you ready to walk?"