Springing forward into life

This week the signs of spring finally arrived. I’m hearing birds in the morning, and seeing nest building activities. Lawns have lost their snow covering, and there’s evidence of shoots starting to poke out of the ground. Trees and bushes are just beginning to bud. Spring came late this year. There were no soft breezes and gently sunlit days in March, so it’s all the more joyful to see these signs of winter’s end.

Other signs of spring are less delightful. Piles of thawing dog crap litter the small yards in my neighborhood. Easement lawn spaces are a mess of gouges from snowplows and piles of sand, salt, and rocks. The huge piles of snow hid a treasure trove of garbage, and now the discarded Christmas trees, furniture and other debris are fully visible. The smell of thawing garbage, and the sight of lawn damage. Potholes so large and widespread that driving to the grocery store feels like mogul skiing.

During the long winter, I waited for spring and dreamed of summer. I idealized it in my mind, concentrating on every warm, wonderful memory I had. Those harsh, ugly early-spring lawns aren’t what I think of during the last cold days of winter. I dream of those few, rare lovely days when the air smells of lilacs. That perfect late spring weather with warm temperatures, low humidity and no mosquitos. The first evening sitting comfortably outside until the sun sets.

For every one of those gorgeous, balmy warm days there is a day of nonstop rain. Spring brings the scent of flowers, but it also brings tornados.

Sunday was the 7 months anniversary of Rick’s death. Every month I think about the “lasts” and “firsts” each of these anniversaries bring. Last March we took a vacation; it was our last. His birthday is in April; it will be the first one marked not as a birthday celebration, but as a remembrance. I’ll think of what we were doing last year, and how different my life is now. This month marks a turning point in my sad little game. It was in May of last year that it became obvious something was wrong with Rick. The remaining months of my first year of widowhood won’t have many innocent memories left. I’ll be marking the anniversary of the steps taken down the road that ended last August with his death.

With spring finally here, I’m thinking back to other years. I’m remembering going out to see music, and watching baseball, and taking walks. I’m thinking about walking up to the Farmer’s Market for freshly picked asparagus and stopping for breakfast on the way back. I also remember doing this last spring, and realizing it was hard for him to walk just a few blocks, and how I started realizing there was something terribly, seriously wrong.

There are many parts of life where we don’t get choices. Shit happens, as the old saying goes. What is a choice is how we remember things – and people. We can view the past through a gauzy veil where all imperfections are smoothed out; we can focus only on the bad, the things we didn’t like; or we can try and remember everything, with all its complexities and richness.

In a few months, when the temperature and the humidity are in the mid-90s, and when I can tell garbage pickup day with my eyes closed, I’ll remember winter more fondly. I’ll think of the clean, bracing air, and the way that the blue sky of a sunny winter day looks against fresh snow, and how pleasant it is to sip a warm drink in front of a fireplace. Still, even in my attempt to feel cooler by focusing on winter memories, I won’t forget the less enjoyable parts. It won’t take away from my good memories; in fact, having a realistic, unpolished view will make me miss it all the more.

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