Paula Ganzi Licata lives in Bellmore.

 

Day-At-A-Glance, Week-At-A-Glance, Month-At-A-Glance. I savor the task of filling in the new year's calendar. It provides a window into last year, while inspiring hope for the year to come, like clean fresh pages in a September notebook.

My system? Birthdays are written in green ink; important, pre-printed holidays are highlighted in yellow; while milestones - our 20th anniversary! - warrant punctuation. The everyday stuff gets penciled in.

My tools? The present year's datebook - marked-up and lived-in, the pages soft with wear - and the new year's fresh, blank one. While PDAs work for others, I prefer paper. I love having the calendar to refer to last year's life for years to come.

As I look back over 2009, I'm seduced into perusing past years' datebooks. I see parties and barbecues my husband, Robert, and I hosted; dinners with friends; Mom and Dad's surprise anniversary party; Robert's 50th birthday in 2008.

I flip through the years and our trips come to life. In 1999, Tuscany; in 2002, the French Riviera and the Cote d'Azur; 2005 brought us to Napa and Sonoma. There are the countless Florida trips to my parents' and Thanksgivings in Las Vegas with Robert's father.

There's plenty of ordinary stuff: haircuts, deadlines, class schedules. Then there are the extraordinary events I didn't see coming.

Who would have known in January 2001 that Sept. 11 would never again be just another day? Or that I would be attending my father's funeral in February 2002? My mother-in-law's hacking cough certainly seemed to signal lung cancer, but you're never ready to accept the inevitable.

And you're never prepared for the unthinkable.

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There are the foreshadowing appointments in late 2008 and early 2009, now eerily familiar yet strangely unreal. Robert's doctor visits and the fateful appointment with a specialist that turned into a short, and terminal, hospital stay.

Those 19 days in the calendar are blank. No need to make appointments. I was living at the hospital, sleeping in a recliner beside my husband's bed while doctors and nurses did the scheduling: sonograms, X-rays, dialysis, plasma.

Calendar notes resume after the hospital stay, but I suspect I entered them after the fact, due to a need to record: in black, the word "Robert," encircled in a heart on Feb. 15; the word "wake" on Feb. 18 and 19; "funeral" on Feb. 20.

After that, a flurry of activity penciled in - lunches and dinners, visits and appointments - as friends and family made sure to be by my side. Somewhere as the months continued, the calendar began to take on a normal look, the new normal.

Now 2010 stretches before me, a blank canvas for my new life in the new year. I wonder what I'll do, where I'll go, who I'll meet. I place a Post-it reminder in December 2010 for my nephew's wedding in July 2011, and try to imagine what my life will be like then.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We can only glance at life. It's pencil vs. ink. We pencil in our hopes and dreams, and fate rewrites the calendar, writing over our plans in big black ink.