I don’t know about anyone else’s house, but in mine, there is one “master” calendar that hangs on the wall in the kitchen and is the repository for everything and anything that happens under this roof—planned and unplanned but noted once it happened.
At the end of each year, somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s, I take it down from it’s hallowed space on the cork board and with a brand-new calendar in tow, I make myself comfortable in a corner of the house and begin the obligatory transfer of family and friends’ birthdays, anniversaries, and any other milestone moments.
I typically start with a quick scan of the month copying events I already know by rote, but I check anyway to make sure I got the correct date. Then, I take a second, closer look at any days that had comments written inside. In any given month, I find my way around the maze of oil changes, dentist appointments, and miscellaneous call-backs that needed to be made. Sometimes there are stretches for months, where there is something written in each day with appointments and activities, that by the time I get to August, I need to sit back and take a few minutes’ break and stretch from the intense inch by inch scrutiny.
As I decipher my shorthand and scribbles, the memories of each event come rushing back: That emergency mechanic appointment I had to squeeze in before our vacation (“but it’s a new car, darnnit!”); the phone call we received when we found out our granddaughter was born; the reminder that we need to order wood again for the winter (and scratching our heads swearing we just did that); my 30 year high school reunion (!!); classes starting, classes ending; a retreat one weekend and a weekend in Upstate the next; and it goes on.
Transferring those dates on the calendar is like reading a diary of my family’s life from the year, which is what a calendar can be I suppose. It’s this recording of the daily and monthly minutiae of our life that is the fabric of memories, some good, some bad, and some bittersweet.
A few years ago, the big build-up was my husband’s health. Looking over that calendar year as I transferred dates, I relived the memory of his chemotherapy treatments whenever I came across his oncologist’s name every few weeks with the appointment time scrawled underneath. We then began to add the countdown to his last treatment, until finally, happily, added to the calendar in block letters: “Cancer Free”.
This year’s focus, as I looked back, was my mother and her health and I could see the intensity of the changes reflected about mid-year when the doctor appointments increased. I began to make notes on the calendar of her falls and hospital visits; then came the closing date of her apartment she lived in for the past 15 years followed by scrawled names of appointments with facilities, social workers, and nurses. And then, finally, the date she entered Hospice and a mere three days later, the day she passed.
Every year, every month, has its own story. Some have a theme that runs through the year and others are just pinpoints of hours or days of unrelated events. As the years have passed, I’ve become more selective over which milestones I carry over to the blank spaces of the new calendar. Of course not every event gets transferred but I think this year has been an especially bittersweet reflection as we added the joyful event of the birth of our first granddaughter, and then the sad, but inevitable date of the passing of my mother.
January is already beginning to fill up, and that’s okay. It’s even good. Because isn’t that what it’s about? It’s those moments in between that keeps us smiling, keeps us loving, and keeps us moving on…..to fresh pages.