I was born just a month after my mother turned twenty years old. She was, likewise, within a month of twenty years younger than her mother. My oldest daughter was born when I was nineteen-and-a-half years old, so for six months of the year, twenty years separates us, too.
It makes it easy to keep track of ages. I was raised in a large family. If someone asks how old one of my siblings is, I can figure it out, but it takes a little time. It’s all in relation to how old I am. For instance, if I need to know how old my sister, Robin, is, I start with my own age. Ted was born two years after me, and Sheila two years after him. Cheryl was born a year and a half later, Nita after another year and a half, and Robin not quite two years later. It gets complicated, especially with the fractions.
If I want to know how old my Mom would be, it’s easy to just add twenty years to my own age. Right now, Mom would be eight-five years old. And, you know, there are quite a few healthy eighty-five-year-old people in the world. Sadly, my Mom is not one of them. In fact, she’s been gone almost seven years now, and it still feels like a cheat.
I always thought she would be around. Not forever, of course, but for a long, long time. Mom talked about living to be one hundred, and I could actually see it. I cannot picture my own old age: I am shocked and discouraged already by what is reflected in the mirror. Mom, though, seemed suited for the roll. Feisty as ever, she’d be a tiny, silver-haired beauty with a lovely smile and a book in hand.
Mom was only thirty years old when she lost her own mother. An only child, she had no brothers and sisters to share her grief. I asked her, once, what it felt like to live without that example…to have never seen her mother at sixty years old, or sixty-five. She said that for much of her life, she was figuring it out on her own, anyway, as her life was quite different than her mother’s. “But, yes,” she said, “it was different once I hit that fifty-year mark. It was like I was forging new ground every day.”
Looking at it from that angle – or any other perspective – I feel very lucky to have had my mother in my life for all the years that I did.