Printed on: April 30, 2013

The longest month

Donald Macdonald
Local columnist

As I've gotten older, the promise of spring has been tarnished a bit by all of life's experiences, writes Donald Macdonald.

There was a time when April was full of promise. When I was young, the realization that school would soon be out buoyed my spirits, bringing with it the thought of weekends camping or boating. Spring was arriving and April was about newness, restoration and the beginning of things.

Recently, however, April has become a difficult month for me.

Nine years ago, April was the month when my mother passed away. While not completely unexpected, her death did come suddenly for me. Now, April has a different caste to it. Spring still arrives every year with the promise of restoration, but there is a sense of loss and emptiness as well. Those feelings seem to grow stronger every year.

As April comes to a close this year, my feelings of loss and emptiness are stronger than ever. I still miss my mother terribly and would love to have a bit more time with her, but I am not sure her loss is what continues to drive my sadness. Has her death begun to heighten the sense of my own mortality? I see the obituaries of people my age or even younger and wonder how many years I have left. I hear of the death of some schoolmate that I have known for more than 50 years and I think of the dreams and aspirations of youth and am reminded of those things not yet done and know that time is running out.

Perhaps there is a different reason for my melancholy. Another senseless act of violence occurred in Boston a couple of weeks ago. Boston is my father's hometown and is the place where one of my favorite cousins lives. It would seem that another alienated and disaffected young man decided to take out his despair on innocent people whom he had never met. Just like Adam Lanza did in an elementary school and James Holmes in a movie theater. How do people get to that point?

Is our society so sterile, remote and angry that we are losing our humanity? We communicate through Facebook or by email and text. We don't use the phone to talk to someone, with the pitch and tenor of the voice giving their subtle cues as to how they really feel.

We don't go to the neighbor's house to sit on the porch and catch up. We are intolerant of opposing points of view and accuse those who think or act differently of all manner of sins.

We don't seem to be the welcoming, communal society we were when I grew up.

Life seems somehow different now.

April is not the month it used to be.

Macdonald is a historian and political scientist who lives in Idaho Falls.