Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | May 4, 2010

The Countdown

Losing a parent is a big thing. Several people have recently buried either a father or a mother, both around the blogosphere and out here in the real world. It’s never easy. Still, there is a difference between losing parents at the end of a long, rich life and having then ripped away in their prime. In the first instance, it usually means that the child is already at least middle-aged, likely to have children of one’s own, and somewhat settled into life. People who die in their fifties often leave children who are teens or young adults, to whom death is more foreign, leaving them to face many more of life’s ups and downs without their guidance.

DS’s father died of a heart attack at 51, when DS was 15. DS turned 51 himself the first year we were together. Needless to say, turning the age your parent was at death is a trying time. DS negotiated that year unscathed, and has made it almost all the way to another zero birthday, with a lingering sense of gratitude.

My mother’s mother died at 39, when my mother was 12. After she turned 39, I remember Mom telling me she considered each year from then on to be a gift. She took those years and lived them with verve. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 50’s and died five years later.

I’ve been doing some counting and I realized that today, I am exactly the same age my mother was when she was diagnosed with cancer.

What does this mean to me? In one way, nothing much. I have my mammogram scheduled. I’ve taken what to me are reasonable precautions against ill health. I’m not dwelling on it.

But it feels like the beginning of a subliminal countdown. Now I’m as old as she was when she had her mastectomy. In a year, I’ll be as old as she was when she finished chemo. Four years from now was when she recurred; five years from now…each year will be a gift.

Actually, each year is a gift already. For all of us. Always.



  1. Well said.

  2. Don’t go morbid on me. I just found your blog and I want to read more….

  3. I’m glad you wrote on this subject. Later this year I will also turn the age my mother was when she died. It’s an eerie feeling and I haven’t really known how to look at it.

    But one thing I have resolved to do, to the best of my ability, is model how to have a successful old age for my children. Neither of my parents felt it appropriate to do that. My mother smoked herself to a young death; my father never saved anything for retirement. This is an area I can improve upon for my children.

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