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Benchmarks and Pawprints of Life

April 13, 2016


Benchmarks and Pawprints of Life


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



137 years ago–on April 12, 1879–my paternal grandfather was born in Levone, Italy. My coal-miner/farmer grandfather who was known for his grape arbor and homemade wine was 6’1″, became “James” (rather than “Giacomo”) when he passed through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, gave the task of driving a car to his four sons and one daughter, was married to my grandmother for 57 and a half years, and lived until almost his 89th birthday. Tomorrow, April 14, will amazingly be the 50th birthday of “Grandpa Farm’s” youngest of ten grandchildren and my first godchild. How I do remember holding baby Gina at the baptismal font, at Sacred Heart Church, in Clinton, Indiana! Now, she, too, is a writer; Gina, her husband, and their two bright children live far away in Oregon. Oh, the bridges and benchmarks that link our memories and more recent thoughts together! Shortly before Easter, I was privileged to hold my grand-nephew Caden James (whose second or middle name) reflects the generations: “James”–the first name of his great-great-grandfather and his great-grandfather, as well as the middle name of Caden’s daddy. This coming Sunday, April 17, will be Caden’s baptismal day; just a few days after will be his mommy’s birthday. All of these April, springtime benchmarks of life help me to realize that life, through both tears of joy and tears of sadness, does go on. –even when there are, currently, only memories of pawprints at my side.


National Poetry Month also goes on. For this second week of the poetic month of April, I am sharing with my Wordwalk readers not six poems as last week, but only three poems.


  1. April 7, 2016: Seventh Poem for National Poetry Month, 2016


The Gift of Presence


Yesterday morning, I felt

your presence

with me–

more than on any other day

since your passing.

Your presence made the morning bright again

and made my day so much easier again.


Thank you for this reprieve

that was a golden bridge

between the hard cobblestoned streets

over which I have been trying, trying to walk

without you,

my glorious guide,

my Zoe.


  1. Eighth Poem for National Poetry Month, 2016


Needing to Remember Happier Times:


From Wiggles to First Walk


I am thankful for a clear memory

of our first meeting,

June 6, 2009.

First impressions were deceiving:

second impressions were revealing

of the greatness

of your ability

and desire

to be a devoted guide.


At first meeting,

I was full of smiles;

you were full of

happy, exuberant wiggles.


After a very brief period

of becoming acquainted,

I thought,

“Oh, my, she will be a handful.”

However, I was wrong:

as soon as I put the harness on

Leader Dog Zoe,

all the wiggles went away.

Zoe shifted immediately into work mode.

Through the harness, I could feel

the confidence Zoe instilled and shared,

as my third guide dog in the lead.


There was a blessing

and a 60-pound miracle

in that Leader Dog harness;

and I knew my second impression

was remarkably true.


From that first perfect walk

to our last perfect walk,

Zoe gave me

an unbelievable number of miles

of confidence, happy memories,

and that rare gift

of unconditional love.


  1. Ninth Poem for National Poetry Month, 2016


Waiting on the Bench


Do you wonder where I am?

Sometimes, I do, too.

I am still waiting, waiting,

waiting on the bench

at this benchmark of life,

between the saddest of sad

and a sunrise of hope and wonder.


Is there a kneeler at this bench?

Perhaps, there should be.

So many have kindly offered prayers

to cushion this waiting

and speed the next sunrise.


Once again, this bench is

at that altitude of gratitude

from where I can offer

each of you

heartfelt thanks

for your promising prayers

and your bouquets

of understanding

while I sit alone

on this bench–

waiting, waiting

for fresh pawprints

on this broken heart.


* * *


These three poems are lovingly dedicated to my third Leader Dog, Zoe, who–from June 6, 2009 through her final day on this Earth, March 16, 2016–guided my life with precision, caring, devotion, and love.


* * *


Wishing Caden and his family a blessed, happy, and sunny baptismal day;

sending birthday wishes to Jenna, Gina, and Marissa;

and sending thanks to all who continue to read Wordwalk



April 13, 2016, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–how wonderful that you could feel Zoe’s presence and get some comfort, and share this experience with those of us who faithfully read your blog. We were having dinner in Boone, NC two days ago and since it is a college town, there were a lot of students walking around the area. The one that caught my attention was a slender dark-haired woman accompanied by her yellow Labrador retriever guide dog. What memories that vision brought back of you and your second leader dog, Heather! I only hope your memories of Zoe as well as her predecessors will sustain you as you wait for your fourth leader dog and your broken heart to mend–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for your lovely message, remembrance, and encouraging words. Take good care and enjoy your day–Alice

  2. Alice, A thousand poems wouldn’t be near enough to convey those wonderful emotions that graced your life for these past several years.
    A fitting tribute for a deserving companion.
    Great post, once again.

  3. What beautiful poems, Alice! On this warm spring day in Michigan, I am overflowing with the joy of being with my grandchildren for Caden’s Baptism; yet I am also sad to remember that one month ago today dear Zoe passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly. Zoe was beloved by all of us for her devotion to you and her expertise in her work.
    Thinking of you with love and prayers,

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