While someone is here, it’s easy to take them for granted. We may put special notice on a handful of days toward that person–their birthday, for sure; and then “shared” days like particular holidays and observances. And as I’m told/as I’ve “read,” etc, and as I’ve already experienced numerous times…”everything” is a “first.” The “first SINCE…”
And it’s almost astonishing to see all the “lasts.” The “lasts” none of us KNEW were “lasts.” Last time I’d buy those olives. The last time I’d buy his lemonade. The last time I’d buy iced coffee for him. That last bunch of bananas I got. The last jello cups. The last thing of Flan. The last time buying straws for his drinks. That last peanutbutter jar. That last thing of dog treats he requested for Daisey. Etc. and so on and so forth.
Every “holiday” is a “first without him.” Every special occasion is less special, because it’s without him. Everything that would have been “just another” simple/joyful or whatever event/timepoint/etc is tempered by that “but…” and fact that it’s another experience without him here to share it with, to appreciate it, to tell about it, etc.
Last Tuesday night for “something to do” cuz I couldn’t sit still, I got rid of some stuff that had piled up on a shelf. And before I knew it, I’d tackled cleaning up that whole pile. Sure enough, as Dad often intimated, if I’d have just put in a half-hour here, or an hour there, focus on the little things, then stuff would get done. A little at a time. Of course, I put stuff off cuz it always seemed there’d be a “later,” and other stuff had my attention (even if it was just to “veg out” after work and not “have to” DO anything) and priority.
Layers of memories in that pile. Mostly comics stuff that got stacked and added to and stacked some more. Seeing certain covers, I couldn’t help but think “Great. Yeah. Back when I CARED.” or “Back when that MATTERED.” One issue being the Walking Dead issue where a certain character dies near the end of the series, and seeing their kid dealing with it. The kid’s less than half my age, and had to go through losing their Dad. And then I think of other such character situations. Bruce Wayne lost his parents when he was ~8ish? Hal Jordan lost his Dad young. Peter Parker lost Uncle Ben in high school. Depending on which version, Superman (Superboy) lost his parents both when he was a teenager or (Byrne through 2008ish) lost his Dad early-30s. Surely plenty of other examples but few come to mind of significance off the top of my head.
But getting back toward my (maybe?) point…comics have been a part of my life in some form for 34-some years. And especially going through the ’90s, “stuff” with them largely inform(ed) a lot of my habits. Going to the comic shop weekly, for one. Despite significant “gaps” in that routine in college, it’s mostly been a “constant” for me from late 1992 to present.
Leaving aside more in-depth discussion and feelings about constant reboots/renumbering and “first issues” and such…there’s the simple fact that comics–by their very nature as numbered periodicals–mark the passage of time. The very number on the cover tells you how many issues have been published since the current series didn’t exist. Issue 4? 4 issues now since this didn’t even exist. 135? 135 issues. And with MOST comics TYPICALLY being “monthly,” that translates to MONTHS. 120 issues? 120 months. Ten years. And despite some notorious titles’ lateness and delays in the ’90s, for the most part–especially the Superman books–were like clockwork. X number of issues, X number of months. Even if you don’t translate it to months, they’re at least weeks; and regardless of specific time between, you can “do the math” for the number of issues between one issue(‘s event) and another.
Especially through the ’90s, there seemed a lot of emphasis on “anniversaries” and the passage of time–of a year. A 12th issue was a milestone. A 13th issue was an anniversary. Round numbers divisible by 5–25, 50, 75, 100, etc–were “special occasions” worthy of fancy covers and other gimmickry. By long exposure to such things, and acceptance and perhaps even embracing the reasoning, that’s kinda been imprinted on me and how I think about time in some ways.
Because of, in spite of, or perhaps along with such things, I’ve LONG “marked time” by comics.
My first issue of Action Comics was #651. If you go into a comic shop today, you should find #1039. 388 issues, going back 30+ years. My first issue of Detective Comics was #604. Today you can get #1050. 446 issues! (Meanwhile, my very first issue of Batman was #439, so there have been more issues of Detective Comics published SINCE Mom bought me those first comics than issues of Batman to that point!)
But as mentioned above, my college years were a bit of a disruption on the sheer regularity of my getting comics; and over the years I’ve stopped following certain titles entirely, or for a time; I’ve had gaps of time where for a few weeks or months I may not have bought ANY comics, period.
Presently significant for quantity of issues are the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series from IDW, and Spawn from Image. I’ve bought every single issue of TMNT as it has been published, from #1 in 2011 to #125 a couple weeks ago (thus far). 125 months–just over an entire, solid decade. Month in, month out. Spawn, I started buying monthly with #257 back in 2015. Spawn #326 will be out this week–just about 70 issues! Or “at least” 70 months.
I can mark events in time by particular comics that came out…or recall certain comics came out by real world events. One such thing that’s “always” stuck with me even before the past few eeks is that I can remember that Dad and I were delivering phone books in August 1993, because while we were out, we happened across a comic shop and he bought me that issue of Action Comics that I remember came out IN AUGUST 1993.
When I lost Ziggy in 2017, I marked each week’s passing after with the observation of it having been a week, and sharing some photos of him. Then two weeks…three…four…and so on…for a year. Then “only” monthly. Then eventually “quarterly.” I knew then and know now that for me, it was a coping mechanism. Marking the time, acknowledging that time was passing. That I’d continued that long. That I’d managed to make it another week, another month, another quarter, another YEAR since such a devastating loss.
And now…well, now I’m there with Dad. Each week is a milestone. For me, it’s by NO MEANS a “celebration” of the loss…I wouldn’t even want the word “celebration” associated with my observing the time. But it’s an acknowledgement that another week has gone by, and somehow I’m still here. Somehow I’ve made it another week since losing one of the absolute most important people ever in my life; who until a month ago, was an absolute CONSTANT within my life. No matter what I experienced, no matter what I went through…good OR bad, shared or unshared, etc…He was always there. “At least I have him.” “At least I have both my parents.”
To borrow phrasing from an old song…I breathe in. Breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. Take one day at a time.
Each moment is a milestone. Every breath, every blink, every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month…is a new milestone of the longest I’ve gone not seeing Dad or talking to Dad or being with Dad. December 30, 2021 is forever burned into me, and the 31 days it has been since that day have been a whole different thing. My life is forever fractured, between the “now,” and “Before.”
And so it goes. One more moment. One more word typed. One more tear. One more step. One more breath. One more hour. One more show. One more comic. One more book. One more task. One more meal. One more day. One more week. One more month.