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Marking your life — one day at a time

By Debbie Leffler • Jan 3, 2019 at 12:00 PM

There’s a ritual I go through every Jan. 1. No, it’s not making resolutions, although I do that, too. I will save my resolutions for another column.

This ritual dates me as a pre-Google-calendar dinosaur. What I do on Jan. 1 each year is take down the old kitchen wall calendar, go through it month by month and write in the birthdays, anniversaries and other significant dates onto the new calendar, which I then put up on the kitchen wall.

Nowadays, that isn’t necessary. Google calendar sends reminders of all of those dates — bringing to mind the Ray Bradbury “futuristic” short story which he wrote in the 1950s, about a house that could do everything without human beings, including that it would announce the important anniversaries, appointments, and bills to be paid that day. The story was called “There Will Come Soft Rains” and it was actually a story about the fear of the atomic bomb. After the bomb destroyed all human life the house was still announcing those important dates, although no one was left to listen or care.

But I am getting off topic. I want to tell you about my ritual of entering dates on the new year’s calendar every Jan. 1. A ritual means you do it every year, but actually I went a few years without doing it.

I stopped doing it in January 1988. My daughter had died on Oct. 26, 1987. Her birthday had been on the calendar that year and we had celebrated it on Oct. 13. She would never celebrate another birthday and somehow entering birthdays on the new calendar seemed an act of too much optimism — assuming that those loved ones would still have birthdays in the upcoming year. I knew one 7-year-old who would never grow a year older and I couldn’t enter her birthday ever again. The world seemed shaky, uncertain and who knew what tragedy awaited. In my post-1987 world where all my assumptions were shaken up — that I would live to see my child become a teenager, grow up, get married, have children — it seemed presumptuous to assume that I could write in anyone’s birthday ever again.

But a few years passed and then I started again. I am still doing it every Jan. 1. The pain of losing a child does not diminish, but life happens and there is still good in the world.

In fact, this year — 2019 — there were many birthdays and happy occasions to enter. There are the birthdays not only of my children but of their partners as well. There are new anniversaries. There are grandchildren’s birthdays. There are nieces and nephews and their children. There is the possibility of perhaps even more grandchildren in the future.

But not just that. As I go through the pages of the 2018 calendar, looking for dates to transfer to the new calendar, I see the repetitive pattern of our lives, the dates and times that I marked as we went along. There are dentist appointments and hair cut appointments and committee meetings. There are airplane flights and trips. There are the twice yearly visits to my husband’s cancer doctor  — more than four years in remission, but still those appointments every six months in which we hold our breath, hoping for good news but always fearful that the monster has returned.

There is the start of school, the end of school, the showers marking joyfully the impending marriage or baby arrival of one of my nieces. I am reminded of the tickets to a musical in Cleveland that we received last year as a gift from our son — that day, too, was marked on the 2018 calendar. And then there are the birthdays of special friends.

Yes, Facebook also reminds me. I love sending a short birthday message to my many “friends” on Facebook. I love seeing the reminders of past moments and present friendships that Facebook sends me.

But I still rely on my steadfast kitchen wall calendar. It is an act of faith on Jan. 1 of hope for the future that I will get to celebrate those birthdays one more year. I know there is death and when I get to 2020, some of those names may be gone. But I don’t think so. I am not going to think about that, at least not for more than a moment.

Happy 2019, all. May this be a year of joy, celebrations, and yes — the mundane cycle of appointments that make us human and punctuate our lives.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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