Today is my mom’s birthday. She would turn sixty-nine today. Thursday is my birthday. I will turn forty.
Turning forty is fine, for me. I don’t have many feelings or thoughts about it, other than I’m glad that I have a birthday and that I’ll get to celebrate it in a low-key way this weekend. I sort of get that forty is middle age for real now, and that’s fine. I also sort of get that the next milestone birthday is fifty—and that feels really weird. I’m glad I had my thirties, and my twenties, and my childhood, and I’m interested, in a general way, as to what the next decade will bring.
I keep thinking about trying to sum up what the last ten years have been like for me, and usually I come up with I Moved To New Zealand And Everything Changed. That’s just a sentence though. I can’t put it all together: ‘By forty, you learn to just be who you are’ or ‘By forty, you understand that you’re not as important or interesting as you think’ or ‘By forty, you’re tired of all the drama.’ I mean, I guess those things are all true. Sure. They just don’t seem like me (for one thing, I rarely tire of drama), so they are hard to think about seriously.
What I am thinking about, seriously, for this birthday, is that I miss my mom, and that missing her makes me feel like a bereft child, not a still-grieving adult. Also I am thinking that my thirties were when I last had her, and also when I lost her, and so my forties will be the first decade I don’t have her at all.
I have been feeling a strong pull to talk to her this last week and ask her what her fortieth was like, what her forties were like. I remember her when she was my age, of course, but I don’t know what she did for her birthday. I don’t have a good sense of what she thought about the whole thing or what she would have said she’d learned by then.
I would prefer to think about wisdom and time and age and growth, and all those things. Maybe on Thursday, when the Facebook messages and texts roll in, or this weekend when I celebrate with friends. I’m not ungrateful, you understand: I’m not insensible of all my privileges and blessings. I just keep thinking about my mom, on her birthday, and wish that I could talk to her on mine.