By Pat Piper
It was early January 2021 when Fairhaven residents Cindy and Mick Blackistone made the long drive to Johns Hopkins Medical Center to see a tumor specialist. Once there, they were told Cindy’s cancer was both aggressive and rare, nothing could be done and she had 5 months to live. Cindy was 64. They had been married for 30 years.
It was a much longer drive home.
Among the hundreds of “what’s next” discussions, Cindy asked Mick to write a book about “dogs that have passed through our lives.”
Mick, who worked as a spokesman for the marine trades industry had already written several books, some about the Chesapeake Bay and waterman and some children’s books.
Dogs had always been the constant in the Blackistones’ life. They both had dogs when they met, there were six dogs during the marriage with four others making what the couple called “pit stops” for a while.
Sunday, more than 100 people turned out to remember Cindy and celebrate the release of Mick’s book of essays, Remembering You, published by New Bay Books, at a book launch at Bayside History Museum in North Beach.
Their routine dog walks made the Blackistones well known throughout the Fairhaven community with waves from neighbors as the couple experienced new views of the same road daily.
“We were walking with her dog Caper and my dog Tucker about to cross the Fairhaven Bridge that has a tidal pond on one side and Herring Bay on the other side. It was just before sunset and a river otter appeared out of nowhere walking toward us. It stopped us both and we started laughing because it could have been an alien. Caper and Tucker didn’t think this was that big a deal.”
It was a way to see nature at work. Cindy’s family had always hated snakes and she once took a look over the small seawall on that bridge to see hundreds of…you guessed it. Her screams didn’t bother them. As they passed Tacaro Farm on Town Point Road, a cow was giving birth to a calf. Life works that way.
How many times did we run down this road chasing one dream or another? Going from here to there sometimes on a specific mission and other times on a whim to see what we could find? Mick writes in Essay 49.
The dog walks took them into Herring Bay as well as Tracy’s Landing and the tree-lined Leitch Road. But as Cindy became weaker, the walks became fewer. But the talks? They continued with new thoughts on “what’s next” albeit softer. Eventually, Mick went solo on the strolls with canine companion Riley.
About a year ago, they made the last drive to Baltimore. Mick remembers looking at her in the hospice bed and asking what does he do alone? “Live your life” she whispered.
Cindy’s funeral included her favorite music: Chuck Berry, Little Richard and a few songs by Jerry Lee Lewis who they had seen together years earlier. Everyone agreed she approved.
From Essay 59: You know life is not a downhill journey. That’s why you have hills to climb. Everybody does. What is important now is that you climb your hills. How big they will be is really up to you.
By the way, Mick is still dancing with her when he hears those tunes.