I hesitate to write this blog, because for some people…this little issue may not have occurred to them yet. And if that’s the case…I apologize ahead of time if it has you popping open a box of wine after you read it.
My birthday is coming up next week. I’ve never really had a problem with birthdays. I’m not really all that concerned with getting older. Maybe because I’ve always been the “baby” of the bunch (by about 4 months…but younger is younger). I don’t panic about wrinkles, gray hair, or sagging (although that muffin top is DEFINITELY not my friend). I guess one could say I’m able to embrace who I am and just go with it.
For me, losing my husband only strengthened this attitude. I feel lucky to be here and I don’t take anything for granted. To me, the signs of aging are like a badge of honor and signify the fact that I’m making it. I don’t really care if the “badges” come in the form of stretch marks and age spots. I’ll take it. It’s better than the alternative.
The only time getting older really bothers me is when I make the mistake of going out downtown with friends about once a year and I wonder how all of those 12 year olds got into the bar. And why does that music have to be so damn loud???? And why can’t I bounce back the next morning like I did when I was 21??
I feel like I got over the hump of age anxiety early. When I was 16, my best friend got a job as a lifeguard at our neighborhood pool. I just remember looking at her in amazement and saying, “How could you get that job? All of those people are so old!” And then it started to sink in that we were that old.
After that, I’ve pretty much accepted the aging process. That is…until this year.
This year I will be turning 34. And for those of you who are now rolling your eyes because you’re a few years older than me, keep reading. There’s a perfectly good reason why this is causing me to have a minor meltdown.
My husband was 34 years old when he died.
I remember even during the raw grief I felt, shortly after he passed away, thinking, “I bet 34 is going to be a hard year for me.” I don’t know if it’s difficult now because I thought that and have been anticipating it all of these years, or if it would have been hard anyway. The truth is, I kind of forgot about it until a friend of mine and I were discussing what I wanted to do for my birthday. Somehow, talking about it, sent me into a tailspin that had me tearing up just about every 5 minutes for no apparent reason.
I know that some of us experience a loss due to illness. We knew it was coming. We knew for awhile that our spouse would probably be a certain age when they died. I don’t mean that that makes it any easier…loss is sudden no matter how much notice you have.
But my husband’s death was in no way expected. So I had no clue that he wouldn’t see 35. Not that knowing would have made it any easier. But I have this image of him kissing me goodbye in the morning. And then everything stopped for him. And kept moving for me.
All I keep thinking is…this was it for him. Thirty-four. What would it be like if life stopped for me right now? What if this was all I was going to see, all I was going to do? Because the truth is…I feel so young. I don’t feel ready to be gone. And I can’t imagine that he did either.
His revenge is that he will always remain 34 to me. As I grow older and have to tuck my boobs into the waistband of my pants because gravity has taken over, he’ll still remain youthful and energetic. As my knees start to creak and my eyesight starts to go, he’ll always be ready for an adventure in my memory. As time moves on for me, he will have tapped into the mythical fountain of youth in my mind.
As I posted on the Widow Chick Facebook page yesterday: “Do you find the anticipation of a "milestone" day harder than the actual day...or the other way around?” For me it’s always the anticipation. Because the meltdown I felt last week and took out on unsuspecting strangers and friends has subsided. I feel almost ready to meet this birthday head-on and beat it into submission. But I’ll be thinking of my husband all day (as I often do) and hope that if I see him again someday, he’ll remember me as that 31 year old wife who kissed him goodbye.
Until then…I guess the best that I can do at this point is live each day as if it’s the last I’ll ever see.
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© Catherine Tidd 2010