Now, May is a month of extremes for me. Throughout childhood it was my favourite time of year. The first month in which the grass was properly mown, bringing the scent that meant extended playing out time after tea. The spider-webby toys from the garage hauled outside, friends gathering on bikes and roller skates until the roll call from mothers that pulled us back indoors.
As a dog owner, the last ten years have taken me outdoors daily again. No swingball or den-making, but still plenty of time to play make-believe. Fantasies of lottery wins, of romantic what ifs burbling through the rivers of my mind as I clamber over broken dry-stone walls and catch my breath on hilltops, pausing to admire the fresh green vistas.
The birdsong in this month brings its own reward. I adore the whistles and trills of blackbirds and mistle thrushes, topped with the higher pitched chirrup of robins. I am thrilled each time I catch the sporadic hammering of the woodpecker. These sounds say all is right with the world.
May used to have the promise of summer too. By the end of the month the gardens and fields would be parading shoots that would bloom headily during June and July. The air would permit leaving home in just one layer. Longer days still, and more energy to enjoy them.
Now, May is fractured and all is not right with the world. It leads to summer but also to an ending. What would ordinarily be gentle moments of recall become cold weapons to remind me what is gone. There is an icy finger from the bleakest point in any calendar, reaching across the months. It scratches at the surface of my days, a tear in the fabric here, a sudden rip there. I go about my daily tasks, but that cold touch freezes me unpredictably. Lifting a tin from a shelf in a supermarket – Dan selling apple muffins at primary school summer fair – my breath stops, my hand in-mid air, then the vision vanishes, and my heart shudders and I exhale loudly and carry on. Walking round the park with Maggie – Dan setting up the room for Intermediate band practice – and I stand stock still, until someone rounds the corner and I remember to move. Reading a book – Dan grinning at his grandad on a Sunday afternoon during a family meal in a restaurant – and I must reread the sentences, regain the plot.
These moments where the present is shredded by the past will arise more frequently as May progresses, leading me back to the heart of my loss. As the floral vibrancy of the month increases, so the memories that pierce me will intensify. I know this and feel powerless to stop them. Let them come. Let them spear me.