Transporter on the Choc Chip Cookie Pony Express

A tale of family, and love, and grace, and cookies.

Rule number 1: The deal is the deal.
Rule number 2: No names.
Rule number 3: Never open the package.

My little sister called last week with some serious family news. My brother's wife, Cindy (mother of Joseph and Cameron), has been battling brain cancer since last fall. She had surgery to remove it, but they did not get it all.

Despite chemo and radiation, Cindy's condition deteriorated rapidly. The family decided recently to stop all treatments. After numerous falls at home, with her safety as a primary consideration, my sister-in-law was moved into a nursing home in Sunbury. The wheels immediately began turning: what could we do, when could we visit? It should probably be SOON.

My husband and I wanted to go and visit, and I knew my dad would like to go too. A consideration, though, is that my mother cannot really be left alone anymore. So my husband volunteered to stay with my mom so that my little sister, my dad, and I could go and visit Cindy in Sunbury, which is about 2 hours from where I live.

I tried to think of something I could do for her, and instantly, cookies came to mind. Cindy loves my chocolate chip cookies, and asks for them at any family event. So I asked my brother, Would Cindy like some cookies? His unequivocal answer: Yes!

The weather looked good for travel on Thursday, and Julie was able to clear her work schedule. The game was on! "I wish Barb were here," I texted my sister on Facebook chat. "She'd ride along and what fun we'd have! We'd get tacos!" "I feel certain Barb still rides with us!" my baby sister texted back.

I made the chocolate chip cookies on Wednesday, and there was never so much fuss made over cookies in this world, ever. I wanted them to be perfect. I wanted them to be moist. I fussed over them. I prayed over them: Let every morsel of chocolate be a blessing. Let every mouthful bring a smile. Let every bite be sweet, to let them know how much I love them.

And then, on Thursday morning, the chocolate chip cookie pony express began its journey of love through central Pennsylvania, with cookies left everywhere along the way. But before I tell you more, I want to thank my transporters: my husband Steve, who took the Stormstown leg of the trip, my dad (Lee, age 92, in the photo above), who took the McAlisterville leg, and my little sister Julie, who took the Sunbury leg, and brought us home.

At one point, my dad was driving on some backroad in central PA, heading for Julie's house, and he was driving down the middle of the road, and pointing, and telling stories. And everywhere he pointed, the car started inching in that direction. "There's no restrictions on this road!" he hollered, flooring it. (He meant no speed limit was posted.) Here's a secret: he takes the back roads so he can drive as fast as he wants. Plan accordingly, folks. LOL!

Then the dash started making a horrible clicking noise: RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!!!! "WHAT IS THAT, DAD?" I hollered, over the noise. He didn't hear it, or me. "WHAT IS THAT NOISE?" I hollered, louder. Oh, it was just the SEAT BELT warning. He does not wear one! "Sometimes I latch the seat belt behind the seat to keep it from making that sound," he said. (And sometimes, with his being hard of hearing, the sound doesn't bother him at all.)

And then we were at Julie's and Julie was driving a Lincoln something-or-other SUV. My dad kept saying he was "riding in a Hot-Rod Lincoln!" He was so thrilled to be riding through central PA, in the passenger seat, looking out, remembering things from 80 or more years ago. Oh, the things he has seen.

Pointing. Telling stories. This is where he used to run a trap line. This is the spring where they almost changed the county line around it. This is the 5 and a half miles from Cocolamus to Richfield that he walked and ran and hitchhiked to visit Mother on Saturday nights while they were dating. ("Walk a pole, run a pole! Walk a pole, run TWO poles!" he said, pointing to the poles lining the road.)

Julie made a special stop so that we could see Joseph's new tombstone (see the extras), installed just in time for his birthday. Joe (Robin and Cindy's older son) committed suicide two Septembers ago. I wish he were still here but this world was so painful for him. We miss you, Joseph. We wish you were here, but we understand. We hope  you are happy now, and at peace.

And then we went to Sunbury, and we visited my sister-in-law, and I took her the cookies I had made. I won't forget her face when I delivered them. She asked if she could have a cookie right away, and I opened the container so she could nab one.

Cindy grabbed the biggest cookie, closed her eyes, took a huge bite, and made sounds of pleasure. "You make the BEST cookies," she said. And my heart melted. She insisted on having a second one before I left; ate it with gusto. I could have cried. Mission Accomplished! (Cookies were also left with Mom and Dad, and with my baby sis.)

My dad ran into people we knew, more family, visiting. "I've got my two babies with me," my dad said, indicating myself and Julie, children number five and six out of a set of six. My babies. I can't remember when I was last called THAT. Julie and I helped Cindy open her mail; read her the names and the Bible verses and the many messages of love and concern.

And then it was time to go, and we got in the vehicle and made the return trip. We checked in with my brother by phone, stopped in for a quick visit, and then headed back to Julie's, back to Dad's, had a quick visit with my mom and dad, and then it was time for my husband and myself to head back home to Stormstown.

There was one more little treat from this day, though, and that was the Friday fish special, which my husband somehow finagled out of Sal, at Sal's OIP in McAlisterville. Yes. On a Thursday. We'd stopped there for lunch, an Italian hoagie, and my husband was chatting it up with the guy who owns the place, who was making pizzas.

Sal has hearing loss and tinnitus, and my husband's dad lost most of his hearing on a boat in the Mediterranean and Pacific in World War II. So they bonded, and when my husband asked about the Friday fish fry, and when he learned we were only in town for the day, Sal offered to make us one if we wanted it, later in the day.

Sal checked with the kitchen, and they said they could do it, so at the end of our family visits, we called in an order for a special fish fry and picked it up and ate much of it in the parking lot at Sal's. It was delicious and you may see a picture in the extras; not shown is a very nice salad that was enough for two.

So that is the extraordinary tale of our multi-step travels and adventures, and the tale of the cookies that made their pony express trip across central Pennsylvania, where they were delivered, devoured, and enjoyed.

Please keep my family, and especially my brother's immediate family, in your prayers, as they have a tough road ahead of them. But we know so much love, we are wrapped in it, and we are traveling each day on roads paved with mercy and grace. We are grateful.

Oh, and that Burger King bag in the photo above? There are no burgers or fries in it. Instead, there are two big, fat whoopie pies!* Chocolate on the outside, so much icing you couldn't even believe it on the inside, and he got Cindy the kind with peanut butter icing which is a favorite of hers. So no, don't open the package, or somebody will EAT it! (The whoopie pies made it safely to their destination, you'll be happy to know.)

It is my tradition to include soundtrack songs for my images, and I'm giving you three and a plus-one.
For my dad, in the picture above, Commander Cody, with Hot Rod Lincoln. ("WHAT IS THAT NOISE, DAD????" "WHAT NOISE, DOLL-BABY?")
For the new tombstone for Joseph, included in the extras, Pink Floyd, with Wish You Were Here.
For the fish dinner (thank you, Sal) that put the icing on the cake on a day full of love and grace, Glen Campbell, with Try a Little Kindness.
And for us, and for any out there who are dealing with a serious or sad or tragic family situation, here's some healing balm, if you're a believer: Hillsong, with Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).

*If you have never seen or eaten a whoopie pie, here's a blip where some of them appear in the extras. You're welcome!

P.S. This family photo may help you keep track of the cast of characters. ;-)

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