“Your birthday’s right around the corner,” the clerk said sprightly as she handed back the ID that store policy required her to check.
“My birthday’s in April,” I replied.
“That will be here before you know it,” she said. And it’s true, I used to start anticipating my birthday this early, savoring the two-month countdown like a child.
That was before two difficult dates found a permanent home on my calendar. February 17 will be the third anniversary of my father’s death; March 14 the second anniversary of my mother’s. Two hard anniversaries to get through before my birthday rolls around. I don’t know that I’ll ever launch a February with the same offhanded glee again.
“It changes everything,” a wise woman said to me when I told her about my mother’s death. Of all the comments people made at the time, this has been the most true. Death of a parent changes everything. The people I’ve known since before I was born, who created me out of their flesh and blood and DNA, have moved on. They don’t exist anymore (not on this plane, at any rate).
That’s a profoundly disorienting reality. Their final faces linger in my mind: Dad with his death-bed sweetness, Mom with her labored trek into wherever it is she went. Will I see them again? I have no idea.
I settle into the coming commemoration of their deaths. They will be days of sweetness as well as sorrow. I’ll drink a toast to Dad in the colored beer glasses I remember from childhood. My sisters and I will call or email on the day Mom died. If I’m lucky, I’ll experience a kind of visitation from one or both of my parents, a remembering so immediate it will sear me with its pain.
Then I’ll move forward into springtime, counting the next few weeks until my birthday.