Now is the melancholy time of year, the month of endings and beginnings, the month of the longest days, but the month when they start getting shorter as well. It's a time of tempered excitement, where the mundane things I do are imbued with more feeling than they normally have, a feeling that what I am doing is at the same time unnecessary, yet urgent. It reminds me of the feeling I have when people who have been visiting are leaving to return home. I want to do things that are nice for them, to help them with their journey, but the main point of my actions is in the offering. I am cleaning out my daughter's backpack, looking for final notes, organizing it, signing off on a planner for the last time. It really doesn't matter, but it will be the last time I do this, so it feels important.
Tonight I walked the dog, and I stood in the darkness while she sniffed all the things she needs to sniff in a walk. As sure as I am standing here, still hale and healthy, holding my dog's leash and feeling the sadness of all the years past, one day I'll be dying in my bed, knowing it's all over, nothing will really be necessary anymore, there will be nothing I can really do to make any difference in the world again. When my mother was dying, I liked to busy myself with all the little tasks I could do for her in that moment, living in that moment, while she was still alive, knowing she was dying. But we are always dying, the big thing that you do that you might feel significant can be rendered useless if the person you are doing it for steps off the curb into the path of an oncoming bus. So every little thing we do should be done with purpose, I think.
When I walk out in the warm days of these late spring days, the sensory input can evoke the same feelings in me as a 46 year old as they did for me as a 16 year old. I remember being a 6 year old, lying on crisp white sheets in a bedroom with an open window, afternoon sun, curtain riffling in the spring breeze. I remember going on summer vacations, riding in the car for hours, sleeping in the back window. Then later falling asleep in my grandparents bedroom and waking up when my father carried me out to put me to sleep on the couch so they could go to bed. I remember my mom crying every time I left, telling me how she cried on the toilet whenever I'd go back to college. And then one day I left my state, I left her for good. She probably cried on the toilet then too. Now all that crying is done, she has nothing more to cry about.
It's another end of the school year. My older daughter is 14 and will be done at her middle school on Wednesday, all the accoutrements of her time there now unnecessary. They are collecting uniform pants and shirts in big boxes in the hallway. She'll be in high school next year, and then all of a sudden, faster than it took for her to get from infancy to preschool, she'll be grown and leaving. And then I can cry on the toilet.