Sandy Hook, Proving Ground, Military Ordinance, stroke, morningMoments before my first stroke, the first bad one, I was overcome by the smell of waffles and hot syrup, a real olfactory wallop, that starchy essence of seared batter and the sharp carbon zing of scalded sugar. I was sitting at my desk doing nothing special after the Tuesday morning staff meeting, and, bang, there it was. Waffles. And syrup.

I probably haven’t eaten a waffle in forty years. Fifty. Pancakes, either. I never ate like that. Even as a kid, I was a careful eater. I’d eat a bowl of Wheaties or an apple. My father would make waffles, that was his thing, he had about forty minutes of fatherhood a week in him, and he used it up on Sunday mornings, making waffles. He left us when I was eight. My daughter’s like me, a poached egg would be a big deal. Most days, especially toward the end, after Marjorie and me finally called it quits, I got by on a cup of coffee, black, and a Power Bar. Now, of course, it’s a mouthful of juice from one of these devious single-serving containers the nurse has to peel open for me, and a spoonful or two of creamed wheat.

But that smell of waffles, it was so intense; it was like two poles connected by an electrical current over a vast distance, the air cleared by a powerful crackling charge, and then I was on my knees, wedged sideways between desk and chair, stunned and shivering, seeing so suddenly and clearly all the years that have passed while I haven’t done a thing.

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