15 March 2009

The Ides: Recalling Time, Remembering Lives

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Well, I haven't heard any soothsaysers lately, or at least I don't think I have. And, if I were to find one, what would he or she bid me, if anything?

If you've heard that admonition Shakespeare put into Brutus's mouth in Julius Caesar, it's hard not to come to this date, the fifteenth of March, and not expect some kind of foreboding. Spring is less than a week away, and the weather feels that way.

This year, though, I'm not experiencing the dread (which was always followed by rage) I used to feel around this time of year. Back when I used to think the beginning of spring was the original lie, I always expected something catastrophic to happen. Maybe that's an effect of losing my grandfather on the first day of spring--which also happened to be his birthday--before I turned eight years old.

His death is really the first I recall, mainly because I was very close to him when I was very young. Mom and I were talking about that tonight. She recalled that her maternal grandmother died the year before. I have only a vague recall of that funeral, and almost nothing of her. Mom said that made sense, for I never saw much of her: I was usually with my maternal grandparents or other relatives when Mom was working, and her grandmother was sick much of the time.

My mother has an amazing recall for dates. If you talk to her for five minutes, she'll always remember your birthday. She also rattled off the dates of various births and deaths in our families: Her father died on 21 March 1966, which was also the day he turned 72; her brothers (my uncles) Herbert ("Sonny") and Dominick ("Nick") on 15 December 1982 and 27 October 1989.

All of this came up because I asked her how old a cousin of mine, Joseph, whom I haven't seen in years, is. The occasion of that question was my mention of the fact that Dominick (my boyfriend, not my uncle) works with kids who have special needs, which a much more polite term than the one that used to be applied to people like my cousin. Said cousin is 44 years old now and cannot fend for himself, so he lives in a group home. That is the fate that awaits some of the more fortunate kids with whom Dominick works.

I cannot tell you Joseph's birthday or the date on which I last saw him. I know the former is in late November--in some years, on Thanksgiving Day. I know that because the birthday of his father, my uncle Joe (who also happens to be my godfather) is around the same time.

My recall of dates is nowhere near as consistent as hers, and seems to have little, if any, logic governing it. I can pull up the dates of a few deaths in my life: If you have seen my blogs from the couple of days preceding Christmas Eve, you know that. Hey, I even know the dates on which my cats died: Caterina, 23 December 1991 (same date as Kevin, my first AA sponsor died ; a friend committed suicide on that same date in another year); Charlie I, 16 October 2005 and Candice, 17 January 2007.

I also remember that I moved out of the apartment I shared with Tammy, and onto the block where I now live, on 17 August 2002. We started dating some time in the spring of 1998--not long before Memorial Day, if I recall correctly, but I couldn't tell you the exact date. I met Dominick some time in the fall of 2004; we were "seeing each other" briefly--from around that Christmas till some time the following spring. And we resumed in the late summer or early fall of 2007. I remember that time because a cracked ankle was healing and I was riding my bike for the first time in about three months when he saw me from his grandmother's minivan, which he was driving.

Of everyone I've mentioned, Dominick is the only one in my life now who didn't know me as Nick. All of my deceased relatives and Kevin knew me only as Nick, Nicky or Nicholas--as did Caterina. Charlie I lived until I was early into my third year of living as Justine; Candice got to see one more year of my new life.

I hope that this Ides of March isn't a foreboding of another death or some other event that would be traumatic or devastating for me. I was telling Mom that I want the 7th of July to come, already, but I have this fear that the doctor will find that I have some illness or other problem I didn't know I had and that--or some other thing I can't foresee now--will keep me from having the surgery.

From the Ides of March, it's another 114 days till my surgery. I never knew that I'd be so good with dates, or with counting, anyway. Is it a constructive or pointless thing to do while I'm waiting?

And is there reason to be aware? Or to worry? I don't think it's the future, as uncertain as it may be. The past, for whatever reasons , always worried me more, especially when I was unconsciously repressing so much of it.

Can--or should-- someone "Beware the Ides" retroactively?

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