Miserable March (#336)

In The Wasteland of T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month.

In my world, it’s always March.

Once upon a time, March was the best month.

March was my birthday, back when birthdays were awesome (and even if they weren’t, I got cake). It was my mother’s favorite season, which always put her in a good mood. She’d exclaim over crocuses and forsythia while we flew kites. There was St. Patrick’s Day, on which you were allowed to pinch annoying siblings (biting would have been better, but I made do). Sometimes Easter occurred in March, which meant egg dyeing and chocolate bunny rabbits.

Back then, even the annual horror that is Daylight Saving Time didn’t occur until April.

I looked forward to March.

Until the March when our childhood playmate and close family friend was murdered. One of my baby sisters was born that same day, which meant that forgetting the anniversary of such a tragedy was impossible. (It also meant that there would forever be a pall over her special day. Sorry, kiddo.)

A few years later, my mother went to the ER at the end of February with a terrible headache. Several times. Her pain was dismissed by the male doctors…until she was unconscious and they figured out that it was an aneurysm. She spent March in the ICU; her heart rate went up any time her children visited, but she never regained consciousness. She died on the first day of spring.

Every March afterwards was a struggle. The death anniversary month weighed on my siblings and me, especially with all the happy March memories now tainted. Even emerging crocuses made us cry.

Bright yellow flowers on a shrub growing over a white clapboard house.
Such a cheery harbinger of doom. Photo from Village Soup, credit Lynnette L. Walthier

Don’t get me started on the fucking forsythia. Turns out it’s an invasive shrub that grows next to almost every goddamned road in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. We couldn’t drive ANYWHERE in March without seeing the yellow blooms my mom loved and crying.

Amazingly, none of us crashed and died when sobbing while driving. March was undoubtedly bummed it didn’t get another notch in its belt.

Because March wasn’t content with two tragic anniversaries. March liked to pile on the misery.

Got rejected by a college? Must be March.

Got laid off? March.

Significant Other cheats on you? March.

Pet died? March.

My siblings and stopped referring to the month as “March.” The time between February and April has been “Fuckin’ March” for decades.

It wasn’t until I read the blog of Kate Crimmins that I realized other folks who lost parents young also have a designated “shit month” that they dread.

In some ways, it seems silly. Terrible events occur in other months (September 11th, anyone?).

My mother had A LOT of kids and we have A LOT of pets; they don’t ALL die in March.

Trump was elected in November and took office in January. He did awful things and lied about them DAILY.

These are the things I told myself two years ago, when my Doctor Sister (one year older) and Lawyer Sister (one year younger) convinced me that we should celebrate our big birthdays (ending in 0) with a joint trip around my birthday (because my birthday is in the middle). It was to be an epic trip at an exclusive resort.

In March. 2020.

Sorry, everyone.

Fuckin’ March happened with a vengeance that year.

This year?

Andy working on replacing the garage door opener.

We’re not even halfway through and so far our garage door has broken ($$) and we’ve learned that our old car is beyond repair (no one will even try, they can’t find replacement engine parts). Have you tried shopping for cars recently? Literally no electric or hybrid cars to be found and even used cars are $$$$$$.

I lost my battle with the city; they cut down all seven seventy-year-old trees that surrounded and shaded our house (along with hundreds of other old trees in the neighborhood). Our street looks barren and our house will be ungodly hot this summer.

Putin invaded Ukraine, setting off senseless tragedies and a humanitarian crisis.

And last week, my father told me that his mother had moved to hospice care.

She died last Friday.

My grandparents and I used to correspond regularly. I had the best summer of my life with her and my grandfather. But Granddad died years ago, followed by all their friends and bridge partners. Gram, over 100, outlived all her peers.

She loved books and keeping up on current events, but for the last two years, she could neither see well enough to read nor hear well enough to listen to audio books or TV. She was lucid less and less. When Gram did manage conversations, if anyone mentioned a future event she might enjoy, she’d give them her best you-are-an-idiot stare and snap, “For God’s sake, I hope by then I’m gone!”

Now it’s March and she is gone.

I hate this month.

But sometimes?

March is a mercy.

We Stan (#306)

Many folks grow up huge fans of celebrities. One of my sisters had the New Kids on the Block all over her room. We (her seven siblings) were forced to listen to NKOTB on all long car trips (actually preferable to my father’s choice of Johnny Horton).

Big Brother was torn between crushing on the red-headed neighbor girls and Princess Leia.

My Hollywood crush was Data from Star Trek TNG, because what’s better than a super strong, super smart, emotionally unavailable dude? In sports, I will always be a fan of Ed McCaffrey from the Denver Broncos.

Judgmental Genius Older Sister appeared immune to the allure of sports stars, movie stars, and rock stars. She was too busy graduating magna cum laude and crushing it in medical school to have time for crushes. At holiday gatherings, she had no idea who the celebrities de jour were, and she generally she fell asleep by 8:45 PM (sitting straight up, in the middle of the couch). Continue reading We Stan (#306)

The Birthday Grinch (#304)

Starting at age 15, my birthday has gone…poorly. I mostly tried to ignore it. This got easier once I had a child. The focus inevitably shifts—as it should—to various kid milestones, kid holiday stuff, kid birthday parties. Also, your memory sucks when you’re sleep-deprived.

When Baby D was just a little more than 2, a friend called and said, “Hey, where do you want me to take you to lunch for your birthday?”

“My birthday? It’s not my—oh. Wow. I guess it is my birthday on Friday. I forgot about it.”

“You forgot your own birthday?! Isn’t that your husband’s job?” Continue reading The Birthday Grinch (#304)

Failing (#294)

My Chinese-American father-in-law harangued me weekly until I got pregnant. He believed my sole purpose in life, as wife to the Number One Son, was to bear him a grandson.

Once Baby D was born, Jay’s health deteriorated. Physical ailments led to mental issues. By the time Baby D was four, Jay was in a wheelchair and not always lucid.

As if he had only been holding on to complete his purpose in life—a grandson. Continue reading Failing (#294)

Hand-Me-Downs & Halloween (#266)

There were two great things about being taller than my older sister by age five.

  • She couldn’t beat me up anymore.
  • I didn’t have to wear her hand-me-downs.

Instead, I got a new dress for the first day of kindergarten. My parents actually asked what color I wanted. I wore that dress at least twice a week until my growth spurts made it into a crop top. Continue reading Hand-Me-Downs & Halloween (#266)

The Itch (#248)

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy.  There were six months of puking. There was weight loss, weight gain, anemia, and cankles

Pregnancy was miserable, but I didn’t think you could actually become allergic to being pregnant.

Turns out, you can.

My arms started to itch. I looked for bug bites. Nothing.  Just light redness.

Continue reading The Itch (#248)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

When I was a little girl, my mother organized caroling and a party on Christmas Eve. We sang our way around the block in Washington D.C. We were met with universal delight. Those were magical times

My Ex-Stepmother carried on the tradition in the suburbs of D.C. and then New England.

Until I dated a guy from rural Tennessee over the holiday season, I never thought some people might find caroling…odd.

Continue reading The Dogs of Christmas (#242)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

The Weight of Pregnancy (#234)

I love food. So do my siblings, probably because there wasn’t quite enough of it to go around when we were kids. Free Candy Night — i.e., Halloween — was my favorite holiday. I dreamed of being able to eat all the Little Debbie Snack Cakes I wanted.

Once I grew up and had money, though, I discovered that I could not, in fact, gorge on Little Debbie. Not if I wanted to fit into my work clothes. And if I wanted to fit into the skin-tight costumes for competitive dance? Hell, no.

Some people are blessed with the kind of metabolism that allows them to eat a lot, exercise moderately, and not gain weight.

These people are called men. Continue reading The Weight of Pregnancy (#234)