Feb. 6th, 2017

Night Skies

Feb. 6th, 2017 08:33 am
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This is my birth month. I say that being a Februrary baby is why I'm comfortable in the cold, why I can't handle heat, things like that. Maybe true, in part, more than likely it's a side-effect of my excess weight, but even thin T7 liked the cold.

There's a melancholia to February, especially the nights. Sunrise is getting earlier and sunset later, and there is the promise of spring coming next month, but that promise rarely brings comfort against the cold and the dark and the solitude, even self-selected solitude.

February has seen passings - deaths - and while I don't think that there are any more in February than in any other month, the losses in this month have hit me harder. The first significant one was my great-uncle Paul, who died a few days after I turned 18. Paul was kind and a talented woodworker, and had a singular sense of humor. He lived in Indianapolis for many years, working in one of the city's auto plants, and he became quite the fan of open-wheel racing. Before the Indy 500 became the circus it is now, Uncle Paul could stake out a spot in the infield and watch the race. As the infield got more crowded, his view became poorer, so he sought to fix this. He built a platform on a frame that could fit into the bed of his pickup, and could be hand-cranked up to about ten feet above the cab height. Big enough for two lounge chairs and a golf umbrella and a cooler.

Paul's death came as a shock. He died on the 17th, and I caught sight of him in his hospital bed just a couple of hours before he died. He was sitting bolt-upright and gasping for every breath. I'd never seen him without his thick old-man glasses, and his face looked shrunken and so tiny. Just a week before, I'd had to help rescue his car. He had left it at my grandparents' overnight, parking in the yard for whatever reason, and a heavy rain had soaked the ground and his car sank enough that he couldn't get traction, so, my recently-acquired F-150 was called in to help. We were laughing and hooking up chains and towing his Monte Carlo out of ruts, and just a few days later, he was gone, man.

There were others. Most important, of course - my grandmother, in 2009. Mamaw and I were always close, and family legend says that I was her favorite grandchild. When my grandfather died in late '99, we expected Mamaw to follow him quickly. But, fortuneately, she didn't. Around 2004, she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, and a sizable one, and her doctors told us to prepare for her death, 6-9 months at the outside. I grieved then and set up my emotional bracing. Six months passed, and then nine, and then a year, and while she was weaker, she was still alive and cooking and cleaning house and working in her garden. I started treating every visit with her after that as a gift, and when she was in her last days, I was ... okay. We had a few last conversations, and she died on the 17th.

I had some amazing support during her passing - Camille and Clayton and Erin and Joanne - and that shored me up, and let me be strong enough to be Dad's rock when he needed it.

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month. I don't know about that, April's just kinda there for me. But February and I, we're complicated. I don't know what February is the -est, but it's something, alright.

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