Every March 15, since 1995, my heart skips an extra beat. On that morning, twenty-eight years ago, as I was driving to the grocery store, the announcer on the radio said to his cohost, "Beware the Ides of March."
The cohost reply was, "What?"
To which the original host said, "Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, "the ides of March", haven't you heard of it?"
Before the conversation finished my mind had discarded Shakespeare, and immediately ran to the single story, single bedroom, hacienda style home of my granparents in Burbank. My sanctuary. The home of the creaking hinged front gate. The gum drawer. The special store-bought Swedish cookies. The covered back patio my brother and I camped out in during our summer visits. It was where my grandma lived.
Grandma was raised as an orphan with her two older sisters. They stuck by each other like glue until their mother could earn enough money to get them a place to live safely. Grandma was the baby of the pack. She's the blonde in the middle with the Dutch haircut. Grandma was smart and talented. She wrote, recited, regailed, worked puzzles, drew, sewed, and loved. All with equal zeal.
When she wasn't solving crypto-gram puzzles, or telling us her life story, she could be found rehearsing poetry, cuplets, and trivia, such as the names of each state and its capital. Among the couplets she would pull out was, "Beware the ides of March." I am told her mother before her, the woman working multiple jobs to regain full custody of her orphan daughters, would often use the same quote. To me though it belonged to my grandma, Kathlyn.
On the auspicious day in 1995, when the announcers were word jousting about the quote, all I could think of as I passed one signal after the next was Grandma. Three months earlier at Christmas her body hadn't felt the same. Her spunk was whispering away. As I parked at the grocery store, I remembered her final wave as they left. Her trying to be as cheerful as ever. Me waving back with a pit in my stomach. I didn't own a cell phone at that time. I vowed to call her the minute I got my groceries in. I never kept the vow.
As I walked into my entry way, I saw the light blinking on my answering machine. Absentmindedly, I pushed the play button for the message, not thinking my parking lot hunch would be matched by my mom's voice on the machine. With a catch in her throat, and a bit of a nasal sound, my mom asked, "Sweetie, when you get a chance will you call me." I dropped the grocery bag. Called my mom, and sobbed as she said, "Grandma's home with Mickey and Gran." She'd "slipped the surly bonds of Earth." As my tears spilled onto my chest, I looked out my back window at the rain, and heard the earlier radio announcers echo, "Beware the Ides of March." It was fitting that she chose that day to move to the other side.
I miss a million things about her. I miss she and my brother, Kyle, teaming up to whip our fannies at Trivial Pursuit. I miss sitting in the awning covered swing out back and listening to her tell me her life story. Most of all, I wish she could have lasted two more years to meet my youngest child, my only boy, Mitch.
Today, we talk all the time. She helps me laugh when life gets too hard. Our birthdays are four days apart, and no one knows this, but I set aside one of the days between our dates to have our own special party.
To the rest of the world, "the ides of March" belong to William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar. To me it belongs to Kathlyn McNeill Reasoner.