Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trying to Beat the Birthday Blues

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


  1. I completely understand. I had given some thought to what kind of 40th birthday celebration I was going to throw for my husband. Then he died just 3.5 months after he turned 38. Two and a half years later, I turned 40 just four weeks after he would have turned 40. Although I had passed the time when I officially became older than him not long after his death, reaching those 40th birthday milestones was like I was mourning Matt all over again and almost did me in. I guess that is when it sunk in that he would always be 38 while I was getting older and farther away from him with each passing day.

    I do hope your birthday is wonderful and you enjoy your special day from beginning to end.

  2. My husband was 28 when he passed away, (in a plane crash) I was 25. We had already decided that for his 30th birthday we would go on a cruise, something he had always wanted to do but I didnt want to leave the kids. I had agreed however that for his 30th we would go.
    This year (September) I will turn 30, Im already having anxiety over it, how did I become older then he ever was? He was the older, wiser one and yet I have passed that age. I hate that our youngest child is now older then our oldest was at the time. I am now parenting the ages and phases of childhood that he never got to see in our kids. We are all getting older and as youve said.. he will stay 28 forever in my mind.
    I hate it!
    Happy Birthday!

  3. we had planned to travel to india together for his 60th, my 50th next i turn 49 next month, and i just booked to go to new york at christmas,as my birthday/ xmas gift to myself,and i hope to do the india journey next year with my son..i knew last year would be my last birthday we shared, and i had a beautiful ruby(my birthstone) and diamond ring,he struggled to my bedside and woke me up very early and said have a lovely birthday, 2 weeks later he was gone.x

  4. Just tears for all of you - 34, 38, 28, 58(?) - all too young. ♥

  5. My boyfriend was 45 and I was 35 when he died. I'm now 36. I have a feeling I'm going to have a major freakout at hitting 45, for that reason...(We were 33 and 43 respectively when we started dating. I was expecting this summer to be when we'd get married.)

    I like your approach to aging, Widow Chick. I'm more the "Ack! Another grey hair!" type. And they've multiplied since Nelson died. Like rabbits. I've been too tired to bother with hair dye and too poor to pay somebody to dye it. And wrinkle cream? Too tired, not on the market, and just Bah. Wrinkles schminkles.

    Bah, aging! Bah, wrinkles! Bah, grey hair! Bah! and Ptoooie!

  6. hello.
    i found you today through my dad. my family is friends with marcia ball. i have a blog and she told my dad to tell me to check yours.
    we are in different stages in life right now....somewhat.
    but we are the same too.
    both mothers. both 34.
    i am so sorry for the loss of your husband. it is my biggest fear.
    having to do all this alone...without my best friend.
    i think this blog is therapy for so many people!
    nice to meet you today.
    say hi to marcia next time you see her.
    i wasn't able to make it to her KC sad.