40 is the new… oh, who cares.

by Laura


So I turned 40 last week, which happens to many of us eventually. I don’t have anything positive to say about it. I went out to buy myself beer and cake and accidentally locked my keys in the car. It was a nice, cool day. AAA came fast. It really wasn’t a big deal, aside from the fact that having to call AAA to bail you out when you lock your keys in your car on your birthday in your hometown is kind of sad. When I say I don’t have much of a support system, honey, I ain’t lying.

The reason I locked my keys in the car was due to distraction. I was on the phone with my mother in law, who called to tell me it was my birthday (good to know) and that it was a big one (I disagreed, they’re all equal in my eyes) and to ask what big plans I had (none, thanks) and to give me crap about not having big plans (why don’t you retroactively teach your son to be more thoughtful then) and to remind me that it must be hard not having my mom (oh shit, she died? when did that happen!?) and to ask if I got the flowers (alstroemeria. nothing says I care a little like alstroemeria).

But yeah, I thought about my mom a lot, because about a year ago I was visiting her in rehab and I said something like, “Can you believe I’m going to be 40 next year? I don’t feel like I’m about to turn 40” and she said, “Tell me about it! I don’t feel like I’m about to turn 70!”

And she didn’t (died a week and a half after our conversation, two weeks shy of her 70th), but that’s beside the point. It struck me that you never really grow up, or old. You physically mature, then physically deteriorate, but you probably never feel your age. When I was younger, I sort of thought at some point I’d feel grown up. And old people, well surely they felt old, right? Weary, maybe bored, more okay with dying than a young person. But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. My mom wasn’t old old, but she was just as scared and angry at the thought of dying as I am. She didn’t want to miss out on anything. She was totally and completely alive and then blinked out. I used to picture this lovely full circle story of life, where death, though dismaying, was a natural step. I thought by the time that day came, I’d be ready. Tired. Okay with being next. But I don’t believe that anymore. It certainly doesn’t happen at 70, that’s for sure. Maybe 100. But maybe never. Maybe people just stop treating you like you’re fully alive, and you run out of the breath to remind them. That kind of freaks me out.

But then again, if we never really grow old, then we’re always partly children, and that I believe. Because I’ve felt more like a kid in this last year than ever before. I miss my mommy. And a lot of people who lose a parent seems to feel that way.

I’m a kid. I have the whole rest of my life ahead of me. But no matter what I’m able to accomplish, my mom won’t see it. I kind of blew it. And I know she thought so, too. I know my lack of success and happiness frustrated her. I know she expected more from me. I did apologize for that, the month before she died. And she didn’t argue. And as much as I want to give myself a pep talk and say I can change my life and make it mean so much more, the truth is, it is pretty late in the game for that (not that it will stop me). And as far as impressing my mom goes, it’s absolutely too late for that. There’s no pep talking my way around it. I can’t look in the mirror and give myself a Henry V Saint Crispen’s Day speech to feel better about facing tomorrow. Maybe if I aim lower. Maybe if I can channel Bill Murray in the movie Meatballs…

“It just doesn’t matter if we win or we lose! It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!”

Yeah. I think that’s more my style.

Okay, but seriously. As of age 40, I know one thing to be true. Alstroemeria suck. They’re filler flowers. It’s the thought that counts, unless somebody gives you alstroemeria. Then all bets are off.