Friday, February 29, 2008

The extra day

Calliope is talking about what ifs today. Many have chimed in, articulately and beautifully. I wanted to say something too. Something deep and profound, something rare, as this extra day that inspired the topic is rare.

But I find myself in a different place, with a different view of this day. I am not inspired by the extra day, nor grateful, nor did I, prior to reading the posts today, even register it as an unusual enough occurrence to merit some sort of a reflection. Apparently, I have a grudge against February. Since I started blogging last year this is the month with the fewest number of posts. And the fewest number of days, you correctly point out. Yes, and that's where the grudge is. It's too short, February. I feel like I am behind on things, even though I actually accomplished a fair bit this month both at work and at home. I am not ready for March. The month of Monkey's sixth birthday. The month we thought we would be celebrating A's first.

If you've been reading for a while, you have probably heard me say that the two date thing, the death day and the birth day, is still confusing. But most months I at least get one of them. Not so in February- it jumps right over both, and sends me straight into March, the month that used to be all about joy and is not exactly anymore. And this extra day? It's insult to injury in my book. It comes closer, but not close enough. It laughs at me.

And because I look at the world this way now, the thought that disturbed me today was what about the parents whose children die today? Today, on a leap day. Next year, having completed this grueling and cruel circle they will approach the end of February with their hearts full of love and grief. Their days will be ticking down to that imaginary one year line, line that many of us seem to instinctively imbue with meaning, the magnet and the brick wall of many of our days and nights. But the calendar will turn over on them, skip over the day their world stopped. Would it feel cruel? Insulting? One more way in which they are marginalized, required to measure the time differently than even the rest of their brethren.

I didn't think about what it might be like for kids with a February 29th birthday until much, much later. Can't be a picnic from their point of view. But man, they would be alive. So you know, all good.

Like I said, a different place.


wannabe mom said...

Yes, for those parents who lose a child on 2/29 -- non leap years add insult to injury. And likewise for children lost on the 29/30/31 don't get a day in the 2nd month.

I appreciate your observation, unfortunately borne from experience. Big hugs.

c. said...

I hadn't really given it much thought. I would surely feel slighted by the experience of 1)losing a baby on this date, any date 2)not being able to adequetely recognize/memorialize it but every 4 years. The thought that any baby has died today just makes me sad really.

niobe said...

I can certainly understand the feeling that you'd be cheated of the chance to have a day to memorialize your child. Personally, though, I'd consider it a blessing that I'd only have to deal with the actual anniversary once every four years.

But then again, as a child I thought it would be very cool to have a birthday on February 29, like the hero in the Pirates of Penzance.

Coggy said...

I hadn't thought about this at all, you are so right. I can't imagine what that would do to you as a parent. The inevitability of the fact that someone's child will have died yesterday is saddening.
As Jacob died on the 6th and was born on the 8th I am *lucky* to not have to face the dilemma that february brings round. I'm sorry that you get so cheated this month. I feel unready for the speed of coming to 6 months as a result of this short month, but at least I actually go through his days. Like you I am still confused on the death/birth day thing. I seem to use them interchangeably. I'll say he was a Thursdays child for example then realize that no he was born on the Saturday. I just chose to remember both days in some way.

On a lighter note my Godmother was born on the 29th Feb she chose to celebrate her birthday on the 28th in non-leap years. Every leap year though she would throw a leap year birthday party themed to the age she would be if she only celebrated her birthday on this day. I don't know if she felt cheated or special.

serenity said...

I hadn't thought of this either.

Well said.

Though I will say I always wished I had been born on a leap year day. It seemed empowering to me - to CHOOSE when I'd be able to celebrate my birthday every 3 years. Maybe on Feb 28. Maybe on March 1. Seemed neat that I could potentially have options.

So yeah, I might have been a bit of an odd child. :)

Bon said...

i thought of this yesterday, sitting in L&D, watching women labour. it wasn't their bad news i was assuming - for them i assumed leap birthdays and wondered if their kids would find it magical or a cheat - but my own. i wondered if it would be nice to have bad news on a day i'd only formally have to acknowledge in my own internal calendar once every four years. i thought yes, in my early circumstances, but realized also that i would have felt a little extra twinge of Finn's erasure had he been born on February 29th and not April 29th. and at the same time the specialness of the date would be something i would have found a way to take to heart, too.

the waiting for it to come around again, though...that would hurt, the eagerness.

Shelli said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, and for the denial to recall it, as well.

LAS said...

I hadn't thought about this either, and what a beautifully written post. Though it makes me sad.

Amelie said...

So thoughtful. I'm sorry it comes from your experience.