Forgettable Dates and Unforgettable Days


Happy Tax Day Birthday!

For most Americans, April 15th is Tax Day. For me, it’s Sam’s birthday. Every year when it arrives, I find myself smiling and thinking of him, instead of making sure I’ve paid my taxes. It’s funny how you can remember some random things forever when they fall on significant dates, even a birthday you celebrated over 20 years ago. On most days, I can barely remember my wedding anniversary. Don’t get me wrong, it was an unforgettable day, but we got married on an arbitrary Tuesday evening in May, so I always struggle to remember the exact date. But I’ve never forgotten Sam’s birthday because it falls on Tax Day.

Dates are a strange thing. Whenever something remarkable happens, I think our first impulse is to assume we’ll remember that day for the rest of our lives. But do we? The impressions of the experience may stay with us, but what about the date? Those kinds of hard and fast facts usually fade into the corners of my mind quickly, while the moments themselves jump into sharper focus – like how I was climbing a stairway to heaven on Skellig Michael under the clearest blue sky I’d ever seen. My dad hugging me and telling me he loved me the last time I saw him. Or carrying my dog’s limp body out to the vet’s car after we said goodbye… Those were all days that I knew I’d never forget, but I can no longer tell you the dates when they took place. Still, I know we were in Ireland celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, so I must have come close to touching heaven in May. The last time I saw my dad was Father’s Day, so the forgettable date for that unforgettable day was in June. And my poor old dog broke my heart on Easter weekend. But, like Father’s Day, that date changes, and it came early the year we said goodbye. Now, I only know that forgettable date was near the end of March.

My grandma has always rattled off dates as if she’s competing on a game show. I’ll visit or call and get a, “Your grandfather died on this day 36 years ago.” Or, “My mother died on this day 72 years ago.” I was always dazzled by her ability to not only remember these dates with absolute clarity, but to also perform dizzying feats of math without breaking a sweat at all – a skill completely beyond my grasp. She’s also a walking calendar for birthdays (for those dead and alive), as well as anniversaries. Though, I don’t think she’s ever acknowledged mine, but that’s another story.

As a kid, I wondered if my grandma carefully wrote all of those dates down in her daily planner, faithfully transferring them year after year to a new calendar. Or, did she simply remember these pivotal dates because she had a way with numbers? And why was the date itself so important when she never talked about the events themselves? I had a lot of questions, but it never seemed right to ask.

I’ve never had a way with dates or numbers, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I like that my mind prefers going to the moment when I felt the breeze on my face at Skellig Michael, to the memory of my dad wrapping me in a huge bear hug, and to the weight of my dog’s old body in my arms when I knew we didn’t have much time left together. And I like that my husband always laughs when I can’t remember how long we’ve been married and forget our anniversary, no matter how may times it happens.

I’m glad that I don’t need a date to spend time thinking about these truly unforgettable moments in my life. But, at the same time, it also makes me happy that once a year I can think of a boy I once loved with all my heart, just because it’s Tax Day.


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By Heidi Van Heel
Heidi Van Heel

Heidi Van Heel

Writer, freelancer, and believer in magic living in Minneapolis. In my free time, I love reading, exploring the great outdoors, and experimenting in the kitchen.

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