Eight Cycles of Seven Years
(written on September 13, 2013)
Today is Friday the 13th. Fifty-six years ago I was born on another Friday the 13th. My aunt’s dog also had 13 puppies on that day. Does that seem strange? I guess it might if you’re superstitious. But, being born on such an “unlucky” day, and realizing over the years that it was no different than any other day, I’m not superstitious at all. Being born on Friday the 13th was sort of like having freckles; it made me strong and resilient. But I’m sure my mother had something to do with that as well.
I have a faded black and white picture of my mother with me a few months after I was born. She is sitting on the side of a bed holding me next to her heart in a loving new-mother embrace. She looks very young and innocent. She was living with my father’s brother and his wife in Georgia, while my father was somewhere “overseas,” doing whatever he did for the US Marines. My mother says she was very proud during that time, even though my father was unimpressed that he had a baby girl. I guess he wanted a son as his firstborn but instead he got me. He would get a son, three, in fact, but he had to deal with me first.
When I was twelve or so, I looked forward to being an old lady one day. In fact, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said a bag lady. Not knowing that most bag ladies were actually homeless, I imagined myself living in some small house, with a small garden and a few cats and a lot of books. I hadn’t started thinking about getting married or having children at that point. It was after all an adolescent dream, but there was something like freedom in that dream. Old ladies seemed to know exactly who they were and exactly where they were going, even if they were going there slowly. Now that I am practically a real old lady, I realize that those old ladies in my dream didn’t really know that much after all. They just knew where they had been and that was enough.
It is amazing to me how this age of 56 resonates in me right now. In some ways I still feel like I’m in my thirties. In other ways I feel like I’ve been around for a couple hundred years. I feel old and young at the same time. What is 56 anyway? Is it old or young or somewhere in between?
Teaser that he is, my brother jokingly called me an old lady when he wished me a happy birthday today. At first I felt insulted. But then, about a second later, I thought, “OK. Maybe I am an old lady,” at least in some people’s eyes. I let that notion settle in, then I texted my brother back and called him an old man, just for fun. Old lady, or middle aged lady, it doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is how you see things.
After eight birthdays on Friday the 13th, I’ve learned a few things, mostly that life can always be better, but it can also always be worse. I’ve never been devastated by a tornado like those poor people in Arkansas and Oklahoma, or tragically caught in a super hurricane even though I grew up on the east coast. I’ve never been in a serious car accident or had any major illness. I’ve never been in a war, nor have I ever had to use a gun to protect myself. My health is better than most women my age and I have had opportunities that most only dream of. I feel lucky and unlucky at the same time.
Like most women my age, I have suffered loss and I have had regrets and sometimes I wished I could go back and change some of the decisions I made when I was younger. I see the results of those “big mistakes,” that the Dixie Chicks talk about. We all make them, mostly out of ignorance, but it takes half a lifetime to realize the consequences. Then it’s simply too late.
As I see it now, the past is over; there is no turning back, no changing the trajectory that I chose twenty or thirty years ago. There is only today, and what I do today might affect tomorrow, but I shouldn’t count on it since tomorrow is notoriously unpredictable. This is the lesson I will be learning for the next seven years and the seven years after that.
When Friday the 13th of September comes again in 2027, if I am still healthy and alive, I’ll be seventy years old, as old as my mother is now. Maybe by then I’ll be a bag lady with a house, and I will have that look of knowing where I’ve been, and, with luck or no luck, that will be good enough.
- Posted in: Uncategorized