I’m pretty sure autumn is a time of quiet reflection for everyone, not just me.
At least in the northern hemisphere. The weather gets colder, people move indoors, and we feast to celebrate the idea that food is about to be more scarce. Funny thing. Thanksgiving and Christmas are rituals that force us into rooms together to share old stories by the fire. Even Halloween is kind of about looking back, if you believe in ghosts.
For me, this time of year is also when my birthday happens to fall, and it’s the anniversary of my father’s death. That’s today, actually. Those two dates feel inextricably linked now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Over the years this has become the season to try and get in touch with distant relatives, sometimes just to check if they’re still alive. This year I sprang for a DNA kit and everything. And every year my ex writes me a birthday letter to remind me that she’s still alive, and that I’m always going to love her. I sometimes remember that I love the ones who don’t write me letters, too.
I’m into all of this shit, so help me. It’s my favorite part of the year by far. Time slows down, and I sink into a great big leather sofa with a hot toddy to listen to old vinyl. I think about things. It’s about time I had some children, I guess. And I should move to a more Canadian part of Canada, because goddamn, there ought to be be snow on the ground in November.
Around this time of year in 1996 I remember walking through snow maybe two feet deep. It was a special occasion not just because of the record snowfall, but because my mom had agreed to buy me a Nintendo 64. Would you believe it? We were dirt poor, but she saved up and found a way to make it happen. No amount of snow could have stopped me, then, on what was a most determined march to the local Zellers. And it was a great purchase, because mom got into Mario Kart, too, and she could even beat me on a good day.
Around this time in 2011 I prepared a meal for my girlfriend, Kim. I hadn’t seen her since moving into a hotel a couple days prior. But now I was back at home, and she was on her way over, so I made dinner. I can’t recall what it was, exactly, but I do remember being very proud of whatever I’d done with the asparagus. She didn’t eat it, though. And I never saw her again after that. But looking back, this is how one of the most valuable chapters of my life began, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Around this time a year ago I got a phone call at 2:30 in the morning. It was somebody claiming to be a cop, but I didn’t believe the guy. It sounded like a scam. I called the department and confirmed that the officer was legitimate, which meant his message was real, too: my father was missing, and they needed my help to find him. I spent the next hour or so preparing myself, gathering notes for my meeting with the constable. By the time he showed up at my apartment the news had changed. They’d found dad. So long.
There are a lot of songs about November. Most of them aren’t any good, but there’s something to it. The best ones don’t have “November” in the title at all, but you can tell they’re November songs because you listen to them every November. What’s on your playlist?
Around this time in 2014 I was house-sitting for a friend of my father’s. She had a nice place, and a dopey old dog named Bailey that I kind of fell in love with. I spent the month there, living somebody else’s life, and having the epiphany that I’d like to make a better one for myself. I cooked every night, walked the dog three times a day, and listened to a staticky radio station that played way too many Tragically Hip songs. By the time I left, I thought they didn’t play enough Tragically Hip songs.
Em was there with me on most days. That relationship was still new and exciting. But the thing I remember most vividly is sitting at the dining room table with the dog at my feet, watching the girl move about the kitchen with purpose. Baking or something, it doesn’t matter. I’d never seen her like that before. Domestic, I guess. In that moment I became absolutely certain.
So help me, it’s my favorite time of the year. The sun doesn’t come out too much, but when it does the light glistens over every blade of grass, and—if you listen closely—it sings.