I’m awful with dates. I don’t know why, but I just have some sort of mental block where I don’t connect dates to things.
I forget birthdays and holidays and anniversaries.
Within a couple days of the date, I’ll remember. But on the day of? I forget.
So this past Saturday came and went like any other weekend day.
I remembered Monday night, when I was driving home and Aaron Copeland’s piece Appalachian Spring came onto the classical channel*. Which reminds me of high school – my indoor first color guard show ended with Appalachian Spring.
Which then reminded me of living with my aunt and uncle when my parents moved to New York.
And all of a sudden, I remembered. It was a year ago my aunt died.
And I’m not sure how I feel about missing the first anniversary of my aunt’s passing.
Part of me thinks that she would want it that way. Then I wonder if I’m just justifying my inability to remember days and make myself feel better about missing an Important Date.
I suspect that she would tell me that it’s really no big deal, that she knows how busy we are, and that she’s thankful that I spent time thinking about her at all.
Because man, my aunt was awesome like that.
Growing up, she and my mother were really close. We lived in the same town, we had weekly dinners and spent all holidays together.
Since my cousin Amy was only 2 years younger than me, I was there a lot.
My aunt, to me, represented freedom. The chaos of her house contrasted sharply with my mom’s obsessively neat and clean house. I mean, Amy could keep her door shut and never put ANY of her clothes or toys away!
So when my parents moved to New York when I was a sophomore in high school, I stayed with her and my uncle for the rest of the school year. And she told me that her only rule was that I needed to be home by 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends.
For a girl who had a limited social life because her parents “didn’t like” for her to go out? The freedom was dizzying.
I loved every moment of living in her house.
And Judy was always feeding us. That was how she showed her love. Always, if you showed up at her house unannounced, there was plenty of food to go around.
She once had enough food to feed the football team one night, when my cousin brought them all home. Completely unannounced.
I’m not even kidding.
It became the joke – whenever we visited them on vacation, we’d go out to dinner, then come back and she’d “fix us a snack.” Literally as soon as we got home. Even though we were all stuffed from dinner.
But the thing is:
Some of my favorite memories of her were in the kitchen – she wearing her apron and bustling around the cramped space, me sitting at the kitchen table.
It was there I told her that I STILL felt guilty about Amy’s suicide, even 10 years after it happened. And how I felt like I should have done more.
It was in that kitchen where she looked up from the chopping or stirring or bustling she was doing at the time, and she told me that they had found Amy’s diary after her death. And in every journal entry Amy wrote that she wanted to die.
Every day. Every entry.
It was in that kitchen where she told me that she was so angry with Amy for making other people feel like it was THEIR fault when it was something Amy wanted. And that it wasn’t my fault, not at all.
There was so much more I wish I had told her.
I wish we had TALKED more.
Like the day she and I spent at the beach on the Cape, reading, just the two of us a number of years ago. Where I so very much wanted to tell her that Jeff and I were having problems trying to have a baby. But again, I didn’t want to burden her with our fear, when she had gone through so much. So I didn’t say anything.
I wish I had told her how much she meant to me.
I wish I had told her how much she anchored me in my childhood, knowing that I had a my godmother, another mother, who loved me because I was me and didn’t try to make me into someone else.
I survived my childhood, in part, because of her love. And I got through Amy’s suicide mostly because of her love.
She was one of my favorite people in my family.
And even though I forgot to remember the date, the ache of her passing isn’t any less.
Nor my love for her.
* Yes, I’m a classical music nerd. I love listening to it on the way home from work; it brings me to my center and calms me down. And in the case of Appalachian Spring, it reminds me of times past.