Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day

May Day holds many memories for me. When I was young, about 5 years old, we moved from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. I remember celebrating May Day with my school, holding ribbons and dancing around the May Pole. My soon-to-be-ex called me a commie when he heard we did that. It was normal for me. I loved it. And I’m sad my kids don’t get to experience that.

May Day doesn’t hold great memories for me anymore. A few years ago it was the day my father in law died. My FIL was an interesting man. He was the director of the National Institutes of Mental Health when I came into the family. He retired shortly thereafter when he realized the Alzheimer’s he had feared getting was becoming real. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a brilliant man who watched his sister and father die of the same disease and realize that’s your fate, too. It was a terrible disease. He died on May 1. At the time, I remember thinking that while I was sad that my children would never know him the way he would want to be known, this was best for him. He must have hated being stuck in a body that he couldn’t control. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t be his normal witty self. His death was okay.

Shawna. I can’t even type her name without tears coming to my eyes. I’m listening to Lady Gaga as I type this (it’s on my Happy Music playlist I made for my kids). She loved Gaga. And Madonna. And animals – lots of things, really. Except herself. It was a year ago she decided she no longer wanted to be here so she took matters into her own hands and that was that. No goodbye. No explanation, though I don’t think it was really needed. Just an exit. This death was not okay for me. It still isn’t.

I think of her when I kiss or hug someone. The last time I saw her was at a party – a work function in a restaurant. We had a conversation about what it was like for her to be in her mid 30s and single. Have hope, I told her. I was married at 31. I knew at that party that the end of my marriage was near but I didn’t tell her that. I hadn’t told anyone yet. What I really remember about that night was holding her at the end of the night. Mostly I was afraid for her to drive because she’d already had a few too many margaritas. But when she hugged me, she mmmmmmmmmmed. So I did, too. She could feel the mmmmmmmmmmmm vibration against my chest. She liked that feeling, she told me. Me, too. I would give anything to feel that again.

I still think about that when I hug someone. Mmmmmmmmmmmm……good.

I miss them. May day will never be the same.

My father in law in better days.

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