It's finally July again. It is a month with lots of moments that mean something to me. I wish I liked it more, but it falls right in the middle of summer and is always blistering hot. And, hot and me? Not a good combination. I hate to be hot. Hate. To. Be. Hot. But, it's such a big month. Birthdays for certain. Canada Day and Independence Day here...major celebrations, parades, picnics, fireworks, (which by the way, Rory absolutely is phobic about which is another reason that July can work on my nerves.)
My next door neighbor Allen and I share the same birthday which is fun. We generally get together for drinks and a "Cheers to us and our new year!"
Vacations are a big part of July...and one can always look forward to that. This year My Lion and I are headed to the New York Finger Lakes area. We'll stay in a bed and breakfast and tour around on The Spyder seeing a new part of the country. I am sure it will be fun.
I turn 58 years old on the 12th. I try reading that number and not wonder how I can be 58 when I'm certain that I'm really only 28. There's a 30 year disparity there. 30 years....30 YEARS. I know by today's standards that's not 'old' but it's mind altering to realize how different reality can be from the image and vision one holds in their head.
58; it's not old, but pretty substantial. And yet, older as I am, I still remember Julys most clearly from my days as a kid on Howard & 27th Street in Baltimore. The heat from all the concrete and asphalt. The people coming out of their homes to sit on their front porches under the yellow glow of the many street lights. Sitting and rocking, hoping to catch an errant breeze, talking over the low walls or rails that separated their porch from their neighbor's porch. Rails low enough that you could throw a leg over to drop something off to them or borrow a cup of sugar. Easily chat over if both were inclined. Large enough to respect the need of the other to simply sit and not talk. Not eavesdrop on conversations that might be easy enough to hear but had nothing, whatsoever, to do with you. Short enough to be neighborly; tall enough to be respectful. Such is life in row-homes.
Flower boxes on wide porch walls growing petunias or other mundane flowers that could withstand the heat of high summer in a city. Or, in the case of my pragmatic grandmother, basil and herbs grown in an aluminum wash tub. The sound of conversations or laughter more easily heard after the roar of rush hour cars had faded away. Kids standing on the street corners in groups, laughing and being kids. Until their noise got too big and then an adult would yell at them and tell them to move off. Sometimes they did; sometimes they'd stand there in defiance. At least until the beat cop strolled by and then they'd scatter.
For me as a kid, the 4th of July was a prelude to the much more important date of July 12. My birthday was always way more important to me. But one year, the year I was to turn 9, the 4th of July changed everything for me.
My Grand Pop got up and started his day as he always did, except for some reason, he decided to put on one of his good suites. And, Nanny The World's Meanest Woman, chuffed at him for putting on his good clothes. She strongly suggested he go change into something else because we were having a family picnic later and he was sure to get food on it. But, he waved her off and went to sit out on the front porch. He sat and waited for the time to pass until it was time for all of us to leave.
Nanny was on her way down the steps to get something out of the cellar when she felt as though she really needed to go check on Nick. She thought it silly and started down the steps again, only to feel as though something was pulling at the back of her house dress. She'd felt that before, when one of her six children turned out to be in serious trouble, but not for years. Following her instincts she went back up and through the long house out to the porch. She stood next to Pop who looked up at her and said quietly, "Mom, I don't feel so good," and he slumped into her.
Across the street Uncle Joe, Nanny's brother, happened to be sitting on his porch, a rare day off. It being a holiday, his green grocery located across the alley from the back of our home was closed. All the beautiful produce normally out on the steps locked tight inside.
Joe, saw and rushed across the street after yelling for Aunt Rose who raced out of their house. Neighbors gathered and someone called an ambulance. It came quickly. But it drove away slowly to Union Memorial Hospital; no lights, no siren, no need because Grand Pop was gone. Just that quickly. Gone. And the world changed for all of us.
Typical of a kid who has the myopic vision of one who has only been alive for a short time, I was totally angry with Pop. His dying certainly meant the end of my birthday plans! And, I never said a word to anyone about how disappointed I was in him for ruining my birthday, not to mention what I would always remember about The 4th of July!
I couldn't stay mad at him long. Very shortly, my sadness over his leaving overtook any other thought or feeling. I loved him. And, his death was the very first one that I had experienced. I knew other people had died, but he was the first person whom I loved and cared about that I had to process.
Shortly after his death, the family decided it would be better for Nanny if Dad and I moved in with her. I didn't want to do that. I liked our apartment over the restaurant! We were just across the street from her, why did we have to move in? But, I was a kid and had no say so we moved. I had been all right with visiting with Nanny and Pop whenever I felt like it. It was good to have another home to visit, like visiting with Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe across the street. Or visiting with Aunt Rose and Uncle John on the other corner. But, I sure didn't want to give up my home to move in with Nanny!
Life went on again. It always does. And so many more Julys and Independence Days have come and been celebrated in my life. Along with many more birthdays. Now I'm glad that Pop went out with a bang on the 4th because I never ever forget him on that holiday and always stop to give him a thought and I love you.
But, this year it occurs to me that one of the reasons I don't always like the coming of my own birthday is colored by that 4th of July so very long ago when Grand Pop changed the world for me. And, while I'm no longer sad over his passing, having the wisdom and experience to process it correctly, somehow, my birthday has never been as joyful for me. That, I've never really been able to change.
Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka Nicholas Dituri/Dietor's grand daughter