Many associate August with the fading days of summer, final trips to the beach, last gasp efforts to take it all in so that some of that warmth can stay in our bones as we turn towards the fall.
Not me. For me, it is a far more complicated month than that. I was born in August, I got married in August and my dad passed away in August (these three moments in time did not happen in the same year if you were wondering).
When you’re a child, summer birthdays are like always drawing the short straw. Your school friends are away, so there’s no big birthday party. I was always at camp, so I got to raise the flag, people sang to you at lunch and I was able to receive a call from my parents. The good news was that the call usually came during swimming, so I managed to avoid the changing room. But the whole allure of theme parties, giggles, gifts and giddiness are just not part of the summer birthday equation. Over time, it all evens out – and one comes to appreciate that the celebration is not in the number of people surrounding you in the moment, but the number of people surrounding you always. The reminder that to many you are special and loved, and to some you are just an afterthought. I don’t say that with ill will – it is what it is. I’m beyond rich in the love department – and I don’t need a day to remind me of that.
Andy and I got married in August. We get a little giddier this time of year – although it’s been more than twenty years since I broke out in hives under the chuppah and Andy and the rabbi walked me gently through my vows as my little one twisted his fingers in my dress asking for cake. There were toasts – my dad insisted on reading his despite his failing voice and already-compromised health. I don’t remember it all, but it began “Once upon a time there was a princess who met her prince..”. His voice was hard to hear – even with the microphone – but the magic was clear. The kids got their cake, my nieces jumped up and down with preschool exuberance, taking credit for this union (and were it not for their friendship their respective aunt and uncle would never have met). We began our life with the knowledge that we weren’t lucky – we were blessed. When we’re smart enough to remember this, we still are.
And then at month’s end, I continue to say kaddish for my dad. It is difficult to write about this without being maudlin, so I’ll aim for brevity. He loved me in a way that worked for me. I in turn drove him crazy. When he left, he took all my secrets – every single one. I censored little, though I’m sure he would have preferred if I had censored more; but I gave him all I had and I don’t think he ever doubted that. And I ache when I think of him, I miss him with a longing that I can’t define. Years ago I downloaded a voicemail he left me on my birthday – singing Happy Birthday and ending with “I love you sweetheart”. I have to turn that cassette into a cd, just to hear him one more time.
Time – August plays a game with my head when it comes to time. I move from moment to moment without volition, allowing events and memories to wash over me as water from a cascading stream. It has to flow in this way, and I have to follow its lead. It isn’t easy, I slip, lose my footing, but ultimately remain standing. Sometimes life compresses, other times it expands. August is.
“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” — Haruki Murakami