Living Past Birthdays


In a few days, I’ll celebrate another birthday. This birthday will make me older than my mother (pictured) was when she died.

She died when I was 21, and I remember one night (though it was probably actually many nights) failing to sleep and thinking about the future without my mom. In my dorm room, dark except for a parking lot lights streaming in around the curtains, I was half in my bed. Desperate to sleep and to stop feeling anything, I hung the upper half of my body off my bed. It was ridiculous, I know, but grief is the strangest animal.

I wondered if I was going to feel that bad forever. I tried to imagine forever. I tried to wrap my head around never seeing my mom again. Have you ever tried to comprehend forever? It isn’t much different than imagining the size of the universe.

The age 45 stuck in my head. She lived to 45. Would I live to 45? What would it be like to be 45?

Well, now I know.

In a few days I’ll be an age my mother never experienced. It’s weird. I’ve been waiting for this for years. With every birthday, I’ve thought about it. Every birthday, this birthday got closer.

Maybe that’s melodramatic? I’m a writer, after all. But I don’t think I’m the only person to think this way. I know I’m not.

If you had your same sex parent live a long life, you have some sense about how you might get old. Right? How often I hear people who have very old parents talk about having very old parents. They joke about good genes. People talk about longevity in their family and they take comfort in that.

As some of you know, last year, I went through cancer treatment. And I was diagnosed with a syndrome related to the heart. Perhaps the same thing that killed my mom. Although maybe not. It’s hard to say.

In any event, I don’t know what kind of old woman my mother would have been.

We don’t lack cliches. Live every day as if it’s your last. This is it. You only get one life. Make the most of the time you have. Don’t live in fear. It’s not how long you live but how you live.

You know, right? You’ve heard all the expressions, the proverbs, the memes.

I don’t know what comes next. Back in college I never imagined I’d be married and published and having art shows. Life surprises me more than it doesn’t.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Living Past Birthdays

  1. My next birthday will be the one that brings me even with my dad’s last one. It’s a very odd feeling, for sure. (The Missus and I have talked about how much OLDER than us others our age used to look. My gosh, we’re so… so… youthful. 🙂 )

    One difference between losing a parent while they’re still fairly young, vs. losing them post-retirement: I had already been living away from home for years when Dad died. Returning for later visits, I’d notice his absence (in the odd way you can notice that something is NOT part of the landscape), but because I hadn’t been seeing him for days or weeks at a time, for a long time prior to his death — well, you know. “Forever” is always a scary idea though.

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