Beware the Ides of March. The Roman soothsayer knew. March is grim. Despite having a March birthday, I’ve always dreaded the month. Since I was a child, I’ve always viewed March as the calendar version of the Straits of Magellan …..a place where forces, winter and spring, collide in a maelstrom. In like a lion, out like a lamb. Even the old proverbs warn us that March is a volatile time.
When I walk back through the halls of my memory and recall March, I always picture a stark, gray, windy canvas. Cold and uninviting. March is bleak. For me, the promise of Spring, despite being born precisely on the vernal equinox, is not found in March. Instead, March is a month of tempered sorrow.
I was born on March 20, the first day of Spring. The very day when two seasons crash into one another, neither conceding to the other. Considering the tumult that has been my life, particularly as a child, it seems apropos that I came into the world on such a day. People think of Spring as a time of renewal and I suppose it is; however, Spring is also a time of struggle, a time when life battles for footing…a spot of earth in which it can take root and, with any luck, blossom. In so many ways, that has been the overarching theme of my life. Searching for a spot to take root and blossom. But I’m a tumbleweed and tumbleweeds don’t take root….they just keep tumbling along.
Twenty one years ago, on some day in March, my mother called to tell me she had cancer. I still remember her trembling voice and the fear tangled up in her weeping. My 22 year old mind couldn’t quite process it, I think. Death is abstract to the young. I wasn’t able to appreciate the shadow of death looming or understand that it rarely retreats. And it didn’t. It didn’t retreat. It marched forward at lightning speed. Marched. March.
The following year, 20 years ago this year to be precise, my mother called again but this time from a hospital. Unbeknownst to her, the doctor told my father and I that she had four months to live. We didn’t dare tell her, lest it kill the only thing still alive and well in her….hope. On my birthday, March 20, she sang happy birthday to me from her hospital bed. She sounded so happy and so…..alive! I told myself that the doctors were wrong. She would live. I knew it! I could hear it in her voice. So convinced of it, I didn’t say all the things a daughter should say to her frail and dying mother. The folly of youth. I was 23 and green like the shoots of grass trying to push through the patches of snow that cold, windy March. I didn’t realize the last time I’d ever hear her voice would be in song. I hung the phone on the receiver truly believing she’d prove them all wrong and live. But the only person proved wrong was me.
Two days after my birthday, my dad called. He told me to come home immediately because he wasn’t sure she’d last more than a few days. He was wrong too. She died ten minutes later on March 22 in the same hospital where she gave birth to me on a chilly March day.
For the past twenty years, those blustery March winds always stir things in my heart that few will understand. Things I can’t describe and things with which I can never make peace. Time doesn’t heal. That’s a lie. Time just dulls the pain. I don’t think I will ever reconcile with March. All I can do, year after year, is wait for April.