Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Death Month

(This is a repost for the benefit of the people involved.)

For two sisters I know who live together, and their third sibling far away, today is what they regard as the second "Death Day" in less than a month. August brings anniversaries of the death of both their parents.

Other people they know have died this month, but nothing quite tops the loss of a father in childhood. A father who by all accounts was an older man besotted with the daughters of his senectitude, yet a strong-willed pater familias with ideas of yesteryear that would have clashed with these children's in a matter of a few years.

The young woman he'd met as a spy in World War II -- true story! -- was left to spend nearly half a century on her own; well provided, yet surely bereft as she raised three daughters. Decades later she still referred to herself as Mrs. X, rather than by her own given first and family names.

He died what must have been an excruciating struggle with cancer a few decades earlier than the actuarial expectations would have led anyone to expect. She died at a ripe old age, in her sleep.

They were both individuals whose lives, and the artifacts of their lives, with which I became acquainted long after the heyday of either one, bespoke a manner of abiding seemingly now gone. People of few spoken emotions, of thorough learning received and augmented as a given, lucky enough to be born to see the fruits of their labors pay off handsomely.

They were people of distinction, yet also rebels. She was a mother and housewife with a then-rare graduate degree designed to fulfill her unrealized ambition to run worldwide cartels. (I recounted her interment here.) He was that unusual businessman with a love of Dante Alighieri.

After people have lived long enough, there are always death days throughout the year; dates that remind us of people long gone.

In my mother's childhood it had been December, for her older sister, whose teenage death had put an entire household in mourning. For me it was November for years, the month my father died; that is, until my mother died on a date that was, only a few years after her passing, destined to become famous -- September 11.

Now I have photographs in which everyone portrayed is now dead. People I knew, people whose jokes still resonate from the picture as if they were still speaking.

I suspect that is what the two sisters will recall: their parents in their light summer clothes having evening drinks by the lake beside their home; he tossing witticisms, she laughing gently and her laughter rippling across the water.

6 comments:

Donaldo said...

Grazie per questo. Mi hai fatto venire ancora le lacrime.

Anonymous said...

Two sisters read this together this morning, and wept.

Anne said...

Sometimes I just love reading you.

thailandchani said...

Your writing is always so good! :)

I am not one for these kinds of memories. I don't carry memories that way.. but many people do. :)


Peace,

~Chani

anne said...

Sometimes carrying memories can not be avoided. As, for example, I will note 10 days from now when one brother badly died on another brother's birthday. Every year we can not forget.

Luck isn't mine.

Anonymous said...

Decades later and I still carry "those kinds of memories." I cherish them and consider this beautiful piece of writing to be "The Official Ode" to Death Day. Thank you again.

Margaret