Morbid milestones matter

Xerox image of my mother transferred using eucalyptus oil

My mother about a year before she died

This month holds one of those morbid but inescapable milestones — the moment when I outlive a parent. I’ve already survived my father by eight years, but it’ll take four more days to beat out my mother, who died at age 62 1/2.

My mother’s birthday is this weekend, too.

Painting by my mother — one of my favorites

No wonder I’m running to the doctor with vague UTI symptoms and acting like a klutz. Last week slicing onions, I cut half a fingernail off (fortunately, no flesh) and on Sunday — whoops! — fell flat on my back trying to negotiate a berm between sidewalk and beach near Castle Island.

Beach near Castle Island, Boston

K texts me about chicken hot pot from somewhere across the date line and it occurs to me that grab bars to aid safe exit from the bath tub might be advisable at this point.

That’s it. That’s the whole idea. I’m planning to live until age 86, in case you’re wondering or biting your tongue about the power of thought, etc.

My mother was a middle child. So am I

Once I’m past the date, I’m pretty sure it’ll hold less charge.

Fort Independence, built 1634

One of two quilts found while closet cleaning

Birth quilt: hand of midwife; cervix shapes

13 thoughts on “Morbid milestones matter

  1. ravenandsparrow

    My parents are still alive so I haven’t had to negotiate this particular curb. Mike’s mom died at fifty six which was way too young…he now has thirteen years on her lifespan and isn’t yet seventy. The life arc of a parent helps us cast our own futures upon the unknown ahead of us. No wonder they scare us, but they aren’t destiny. Happy half birthday….live long and prosper.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thanks Dana. I lost a parent in my mid twenties. The only person I knew who’d also lost a parent at that age was, interestingly enough, my husband (we were just friends then). I do understand that my destiny is my own. For one thing, I didn’t for forty years smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. When I was little, if I ever lost my mother in a store all I had to do was wait and listen for her smoker’s hack.

    1. deemallon Post author

      She was a dynamo. A Leo. A woman with opinions. Sort of a Martha Stewart before we had Martha Stewart.

  2. Marti

    Lost my Dad when I was 30, my Mom when I was 32. Mom died at 67, Dad died at 73 so I have a little over a year to go before I outlive him as I will be 72 next month. Every year, on their birthdays, I calculate how old they would be now. Dad was born in 1905, Mom in 1913. Maybe this is a morbid ritual but it is one that I do every year…

    1. deemallon Post author

      Wow Marti what a difficult couple of years that must have been for you! I was 26 when my dad died at age 54 and eight months pregnant with my second child at age 39 when my mother died. Talk about intense. Also my husband was already in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy when I went into labor. Me fifth floor. Him sixth. We joke that he had the c-section of the family,y.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Given that you’re in the middle of an uprooting life change that probably involves trying to make projections forward, I’m not surprised.

  3. Nancy

    J. was 14 when his daddy died at 60. I remember when he turned 60, it was much on his mind. My mama died at 80 and I’m good with not living too much longer than that. Her birthday is this month too, the 13th…another Leo – but she was not a big lion 🙂 My daddy died in 2000, July 20th, 3 weeks after I met J. They never met. I wish they had, I think they would have liked each other. When I need to or remember I light candles for their death anniversaries and birthdays. You may remember them from my posts. And still I miss them.
    Sending love xo

    1. deemallon Post author

      I certainly remember your Mom and how you often celebrate her! My mother didn’t get to meet my younger son (she died a month before he was born), so I understand that sense of missed connection.

      Fourteen is a terrible age to lose a parent!

  4. Ginny

    My dear friend and mentor died at 83. His lament was that he wished he would have known he was going to live so long. He would have taken more chances. I think about that a lot. My mom is 94 and still going strong. The though of 35 more years, for me, seems absurd.

    2 packs a day was the culprit for your folks. My friend Bob too. Sad.

    I hope if I’m around another 30, you are too!

    1. deemallon Post author

      My father smoked a lot less but had the heart disease gene. My mother also taught art in a confined space with poor ventilation for almost 20 years. Spray glued, turpentine, oils, spray paint… not great stuff to be inhaling a lot of. Also neither of my parents ate well as children.

      Your mother is the last of that generation! I’m. I’m not sure I want another 30 years, either…

      I’m gonna think about your mentor’s comment for days.


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