I think of the month of June and memories of swimming in our babysitter’s pool, high school graduation, and cookouts with friends construct themselves in my mind. June, like May before it and July following it, is a month of good memories. I used to not subscribe to the idea that certain times of year lent themselves to being intrinsically worse than others, but in the past several years, I feel with increasing certainty that early summer is far better cosmically than the period six months later.
Certainly, it’s not to say that the period six months later is absent of joy and good memories; November has Thanksgiving and December has those innumerable, various, and sundry holidays. But it seems that the worst stuff of the year happens in the November through January/February period. Now, I lost one of my grandfathers in June of 2011, a time that should have been joyous and celebratory following getting married and moving to Virginia, was instead turned into an extended funeral dirge. It took a very long time to recovery from his loss. The other grandfather passed away in April last year. I think about it and that it has already been over a year since he passed blows my mind. But last year was a time of rapid change and I had the opportunity to say my final goodbye to him, a week before he passed.
And I remember my final goodbyes to both my grandfathers. One was well before he died, the other the week before. Carl, who passed away last year, had been sleeping in his chair, his body and resolve weakened by one final heart attack. I got up to leave, woke him up briefly, and told him I’d see him around and that I loved him. He went back to sleep. I hugged Grandma and as I left, I looked back into the living room and saw him sleeping in his recliner. It was perfect. It was as I remembered him as a child, when he would take a nap in his recliner while he and Grandma watched over Lisa and me. If that’s the memory I get from the last moments spent with my grandfather before he gave up the ghost, that is all I need. It was closure. It was good.
My final goodbye with my other grandfather was different. The last time we exchanged goodbyes, I was set to leave for college in the next week. We were at my grandparents’ home in Québec. Mom, Lisa, and I – my step-dad may have come as well, I’m a little fuzzy on the details there – went up for a Saturday. When you live 10 miles away, it’s always easy for a quick trip across the border. We probably had dinner, we probably played cards. Those were the things we did. Again, I’m hazy on the details. But I remember the goodbye. I remember the hug I got from him and him telling me to have a good life. This was the last time I would see him before the Alzheimer’s Disease got to be too much. We would see each other again over the next nine years before he died, but there wouldn’t be goodbyes. There would be visits to an increasingly sick and suffering man whose ability to engage with the world around him was being robbed bit by bit. I remember the next time we went to see him, I was home from college on break. He was looking at the Québec version of TV Guide, trying to read it. And he wasn’t able. And there were no more goodbyes.
I don’t think that May through July is intrinsically better than any other time of year, apart from having the ability (in the Northern Hemisphere) to go outside and see green, to smell a fresh breeze, and feel the vibrancy of life. And in that period and near to it, there’ve been struggles and loss. But also good. In the winter, when we sit and see the bleakness, it can be difficult to find the beauty in the nakedness of trees in slumber. But it exists. Good and bad know no calendar. A day is a day, a month is a month, and a year is just a year. Time itself and how we measure it conveys no value of good or bad. Time merely is and what we do, how we react to the living we experience in all times influences how we perceive time. So, if you’re feeling down in December, because of previous loss in a year passed, remember this: let go of the angst you feel for these days you wish to mourn and seek out the celebration.
I promise you, it will be worth it.