Today I am 36 years old.
It's a major milestone in my life.
This is the age at which my mother (so young!) found the lump in her breast. Three years, three recurrences, one long chemotherapy, one bout of radiation, and one faith healing later, she was dead by 40.
This is mortality math, the phenomenon Hope Edelmen writes about in her book Motherless Daughters. The age at which my mother died is a milestone that I have never really been able to imagine myself passing, at least not with my health intact.
For a long time I couldn't really see myself with children. Now that I have one, I can't imagine myself without children. How I love being a mom! My dad, grumpy for all those years while he impatiently waited for grandchildren, kept telling me, "You have no idea what fun you are missing." Now I see how right he was.
The arrival of this child has also awakened -- or reawakened-- in me a strong desire for my own mother. My aunt, my mother's younger sister, who has acted as my surrogate mother since my mom died when I was 15 (truth be told, we were close since the day I was born) has been here for me, without fail. She was present at the birth, holding my hand and telling me to push and telling me how beautiful and perfect he was, once he was born.
My stepmother--who my father remarried within a mere five months of my mom's death--has just divorced my dad after 20 years of marriage, leaving him to bitterly demand that I sever all ties with her.
So I've had some models, but they're not the same. I never saw my own mom get older, so I don't really have the model for how to do it. For some reason I can't see myself getting older.
This may be a good thing. My aunt also never seems to age; she seems to be about 35 to me, although she's in her 50's. She's been a great model for me to follow. My stepmom, also in her 50's, has always seemed older to me. And no wonder -- she married my dad and instantly was saddled with 4 young kids, plus one of her own and a baby on the way! A mother of 6 -- that would age anyone.
So with the strange post-partum things happening to my body, you could imagine that my mortality math might make me a bit on edge (is it cancer?). I've got the nicest old Scottish doctor, my endocrinologist, who I will be giving vials of my blood to every few weeks while he monitors my thyroid levels. I'm still in hyperactive mode. He assures me that this is nothing to worry about. It will run its course. The shaking is not Parkinson's, it's 100% a symptom of the overactive thyroid. He tells me jokes while he takes my blood, and I laugh at those jokes like I've never heard anything funnier.
["Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9."]
On the plus side, I've lost all the baby weight.
I owe him 3 more jokes when I go back, so send me some good ones.