Sixty. Unimaginably Sixty.By Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
Image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
28 July 2023
Yesterday, 27th July, Mike would have been 60.
His birth date – 27 07 1963.
My birth date – 27 03 1967.
Same digits. Just turned around in a couple of places.
I love number patterns, and I always loved that our birth dates had the same numbers in them. It felt like “a sign”. Though a numerologist software package once spewed out close to identical summaries of our personalities based on the numbers, which suggests that numerology cannot be very credible, because we were really rather different, despite having the same digits at our core.
After my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary celebrations were well and truly over this past weekend, Medjool and I headed from the Worcestershire area towards Cambridgeshire where Mike’s eldest sister, Helen, now lives. She’s moved a fair few times these past few years, and what with the moves and the deaths and various other things that go in in people’s lives, we hadn’t seen each other “in the flesh” for the four and a bit years since Julia died. (I just had a quick check, because I was no longer sure: the last time I saw her was when she arranged for a car mechanic friend of hers to come over and take Mike’s old MGB back to its birth place, England. My writing about the occasion (below) tells me it was late March 2019, three months before Julia died, days before her and my birthdays at the end of the month).
I’ve had Mike’s big birthday date in my conscious awareness for ages. Months. Perhaps since the start of 2023. And once my parents’ celebrations were scheduled, I knew that I’d want to ensure I was doing something commemorative for Mike. But what to do? How do you celebrate someone’s 60th birthday – or indeed any birthday – when they have died? It’s one thing to spend the day on my own, and gently get on with things, a bit of work, a walk we used to do, light a candle, write a card, buy or pick some flowers, cook a favourite dish, write some text for a blog post… It’s another thing to engage others in the process, knowing full well that the person you most want there, the person for whom you want to celebrate a big birthday, is not there. Not just unavailable that day but unavailable any day. But I engaged Helen, and Helen was game. No big party. No fanfare. Just some quiet toasts, and sharing of a few memories and stories. Good enough.
Ugh. These things are so hard. Even after all this time. Even after 6+ years. Because this is what I realise… I realise I cannot imagine Mike at 60. I cannot imagine him being 60 or even 59 or 58 because he was never those ages. He never got anywhere near.
Mike was older than me – close to 4 years older. Always that little bit ahead. He was 53 when he died, and I had just turned 50. I turned 51 without him, then 52, and 53. I went past the age he had been when he died while in my 54th year. Then 54 happened which just felt weird. Uncharted, somehow. Then 55, and now 56. But Mike stopped at 53. He didn’t “somehow” turn 54 while I was still 50. Nor did he turn 55 when I was 51. He also didn’t turn 56 when I was 52 . And he didn’t turn 57 or 58 or 59.
So how could he be 60? It is unimaginable. It’s too big a stretch of the imagination. The foundation stones leading up to the age simply absent. I can imagine him 53. I can imagine him 54. Perhaps maybe up to my age now, though it is a stretch. But 60? No. Will that change as and when I might have the good fortune of making that age? I don’t know. Time will tell. Or not.
Helen said warmly, “Mike would be just the same. He’d look the same. His hair would be the same – perhaps a little more grey in it. He’d still be running, playing tennis, and snow boarding. He’d still be working on his car. And he’d still be cooking up wonderfully delicious meals”.
I wish I could see it as clearly as she does, but I cannot. It’s not that the memories have vanished. It’s more that my brain, and the requisite imagination that goes with it, hasn’t had vital software updates. My brain cannot compute.
And so I cannot “see” Mike at 60. I cannot imagine Mike today – still older than me, still fit, still healthy, still enjoying life. The photo album, replete with technicolour images, stopped at 53.
I do wish it were otherwise.