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Jim and Blair looked out in wonder as they moved from lock to lock. The cruise through the Panama Canal looked great in the brochures, but nothing prepared them for the enormity of this man-made creation. It was an especially striking counterpoint to the previous five days they'd hiked through Costa Rican jungle, where they'd stayed in beautiful but simple accommodations.

"God, Jim, what a great idea to skip the leg from Seattle and fly directly to Puntarenas. We did the best parts and we'll still have time to meet Naomi in Colon on the 8th."

"Why didn't she join us on the ship? I'd think she'd find this fascinating."

"Oh, she would," Blair agreed. "But she's been through the Canal several times. Once as a cook on a tramp steamer. I think all that cooking is what swore her off meat."

"You're joking," Jim protested.

Blair laughed. "Yeah. She was a vegetarian way before that."

Jim looked at Blair and decided not to pursue it. "So, Mother's Day is a big deal down here? Did Hallmark cards invade the country?"

"Nah, they kind of rolled Mother's Day into Immaculate Conception Day, Mary being the Uber-Mother and all. Anyway, there should be some great festivals, parades, the whole shebang." Blair grinned. "Plenty of local cuisine. Can't wait to try the tongue stew and corn fritters."

"How long do we have in Colon?"

"Two days, unless you want to stay longer." Blair looked at Jim seriously. "Whatever you want to do, we can do."

Jim looked at Blair curiously but just said, "Okay."

Three hours later, they headed to the Excelsior Hotel. They'd planned to meet Naomi for drinks before heading out to celebrate, and they easily spotted her in the lounge. She was talking to another woman, which wasn't unusual; Naomi made acquaintances as easily as did her son. There was something about the other woman that seemed familiar, though. As they approached, Jim dialed up his sight and stopped abruptly. "Mom?" he asked faintly, and turned to Blair.

"Any way you want to do this, babe. You want out, we go. You want to connect, you've got all the time you need. Whatever you want, but she reached out, so I thought…"

And, surprisingly, Jim didn't mind. A few years before, he'd have considered this an ambush, a betrayal on Blair's part. But inside, in the place where he'd learned to be a lot more honest with himself, he'd longed to have the relationship that Blair and Naomi enjoyed. They had, somehow, provided this opportunity for Jim. He smiled at Blair and kissed him, putting all the things he had trouble saying into that gesture. Blair took their suitcases and gave Jim a gentle shove toward the table. Naomi smiled at Jim, gave him a motherly kiss, then left to help Blair check into their room.

Then she and Blair walked out into the sunshine to enjoy the day, while their loved ones began the process of healing and connecting.