The feeling begins to emerge right after summer ends. When school resumes, not the official end to summer weeks later, long before the temperature dips and I start thinking about bringing out the sweaters, I start thinking about this day. This was the day – October 6th – that fell on a Monday that year and would forever change the course of our lives.
It’s been six years. Oddly it has never fallen on a Monday again in all that time and won’t again until 2025. Our lives are so different now, it really doesn’t matter what day it is. The cool breezes, shorter days, and expanding colors in the landscape give notice of the approaching anniversary. I can feel it engulf me without consulting a calendar. Although we are far from that house that fills our memories; that place where he left us.
Respect for his memory, the man who will always be my daughter’s father, is part of the reason I pause now as the years create even more distance between who we were and who I am now. The sadness over the loss doesn’t need an anniversary to appear as an uninvited guest. That could happen on a Thursday in the middle of a bright sunny summer day or in the middle of a winter snow storm when a deep memory is resurrected by an unexpected trigger.
Now I wish to honor his memory, the good times we shared, and demonstrate for our daughter the meaning of the relationship I had with her Dad. That, and the fact that it just doesn’t seem right not to pause and reflect on this day.
The first year, the first Monday in October, the day before the first anniversary I picked up my daughter at school, so “nothing would be like last year.” On Tuesday, the first anniversary, we went to the closest point we could find to his burial in the Atlantic: the shore at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
We walked on the beach and took in a breathtaking sunset over the bay. A sign? We had a somewhat somber dinner at an Italian restaurant on the boardwalk in Long Branch where we had shared a pre-race dinner together before the New Jersey Marathon the year before.
Without a grave to visit, we continued the tradition of visiting the water on the subsequent anniversaries. A dinner cruise on the Hudson. The Water Club on the East River. And since coming to Chicago, Lake Michigan. Those outings became less somber.
This year, a year when nothing is as it’s ever been, we talked about how to acknowledge the day when making plans is a little more challenging. A walk to the lake? A drive someplace? Takeout? I still don’t know the answer.
It may be that on this day we just quietly reflect and continue to move forward. I have often thought that a commemorative act would be better suited on the anniversary of his birth, a more life-affirming day, anyhow.
It may be that on this day, I should look for peace and let go of how it all ended…on this day.