For the last few years, once a year (or twice), I am surprised that, suddenly, it is my mother's birthday. Or that I've completely forgotten it and it's already passed. Or it's not her birthday at all, because I can't remember if it was August 4th or September 4th, and which one would mean she was a Virgo? Because she was a Virgo - I remember at least she was a Virgo.
We forget birthdays - at least I do. I'm terrible with birthdays; even my own tends to sneak up on me, and who can even do that math, subtracting 1,986 from 2,015? But I've always been able to remember my family's birthdays. Still, remembering their births requires devices, clever tricks I came up with as a child. Easy math. The math is easy. My father and mother were both born in 1960, a good, even number with a zero. My brother is five years older than I am, so if I can remember my own age, I can remember his.
The months are slightly more complicated, but not much. My father and I were both born on the fifth of our individual months - my father in June, the first real month of Summer, me in November, generally around some election or, at least, Halloween. My brother and mother were both born on the fourth of their individual months - my brother in April, the day before Kurt Cobain killed himself, and my mother in whichever month would make her a Virgo.
My mother died eight years ago this October, and I guess I'd be making assumptions about other people who live with a small part of their hearts always in mourning, but I do believe something about time makes an honest to God ghost out of the people you loved when they were alive. Maybe I forget because I can't call her, can't e-mail her, can't make the old family joke - "It was 55 years ago today, the scariest day of my life..."
She would have been 55 years old this year, the same as my father, and that's all I can speculate about what else she would be today, all I can speculate about a person who was sick for so long and so long ago that I can't really remember anything in particular anymore, just scenes like a movie I only saw once.
I've been sitting here all day thinking about how surprising it is that I feel like I don't remember her, and how I know, for a fact, that I definitely do not remember her birthday, and how every year I'm planning on buying cheesecake or making carrot cake to eat to celebrate her life just a little bit, in a small way, but then I always forget. And I'm listening to an album about a mother that's passed and thinking, "It's tomorrow. I can still make a cake. I can buy one."
But it's not. It's next month. Her birthday is in September. There's still time for cake, but there's also still time to forget.