It’s almost the end of July, and August is around the corner.
August has become a strange month for me. When I was a child, all the people I knew and loved were born in August, so it was a month of birthdays, sunshine, poinciana and sultry smothery heat. Well. Perhaps not all the people, but all the people older and closer to me. These were the birthdays that fell in August: my grandmother’s first, then my uncle’s, then three cousins one after another, and finally my mother’s. The August birthdays. The Leos. Ice cream and cake and sitting around in living rooms just talking until the sun went down and the mosquitoes had to be quelled with Baygon. August was a big deal in my mother’s family. In my mother’s family, we understood that they were the pre-electricity babies; the pre-electricity, pre-fan, pre-a/c babies. They’d all been conceived nine months before, which was in November. They’d been made during the first really cool weather of the year.
Now, though, they are dead. All the relatives who surround me now are the top-of-the-year babies: that rush of birthdays that begin in January (now, with our spouses, in December) and continue until July. August grows quiet now, which is strange.
But there’s another thing about August. It’s the month my father died. He stuck it out till after my mother’s birthday, and waited for almost a full week after, so that his death wouldn’t mar her birthday too much. On August 24th, my father died. He was 49. This year, I am 49, and when August 24th comes around my father will have been dead 25 years.
So this month is a month when my mother will be very close to me, having been born in August: my mother, and my uncle, and their mother, and the days throughout the year will be long and quiet and maybe melancholy. There won’t be ice cream and cake, unless we decide to celebrate in their honour. And then it’ll be the 24th, I’m 49, and I’ll be thinking about my father and death.
Time to end on a little Hippolyte, I think:
No distance as long as a dim hospital corridor when,
coming to the end of it, before turning left, you do not know
if the door you walk to will be open
if the bed within will now be empty, stripped
if the quick, clipped phone call, “Come now”, an hour ago
was an hour, half an hour, half of that, a minute, half a minute