On Sunday, June 16, I will turn 60 years old . Suddenly I am inexplicably and unexpectedly freaking out about it. This from the woman who has been chirping for months that she can’t wait to be sixty years old. My family is looking at me with a bit of disbelief flavored with trepidation. Allow this quilter to examine why she is emotional on turning 60.
My Mother died when she was 59 after two pain filled years of unsuccessfully battling ovarian cancer. My mom was the sun that our family rotated around, she was a wonderful woman and her illness was excruciatingly painful for everyone. She expressed her fears that she would die at 59 because her Mother had died at 59. For years those fears were a tape that played in my head and only recently when a relative shared my grandmother’s obituary did I realize that my Mom’s mom had not died at age 59 but in 1959 at age 62. I felt like a ominous prediction had been lifted but I also wanted to go back in time and reassure my mom. From the moment my Mother died before she reached 60, my goal has been to celebrate my 60th birthday. I was resolved to make this milestone.
5 days away from this goal and now I decide to not want to turn 60? I am trying to figure out why.
There are lots of thoughts roaming around my head. Remember that scene at the end of Saving Private Ryan where the Tom Hanks character’s dying words were “Earn it?” I think about that, what will I do with the years my Mother did not have? Will I earn them? Do I deserve them?
My quilting is all jumbled up with these feelings. My 30th birthday was 2 weeks before my Mom’s death and when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I requested the cost of quilting lessons. I had been sewing since I was 12 and as I felt that turning 30 was a big milestone, I wanted to do something new and different.
My mom was very sick at this point but wrote the check to the Fabric store which I put in my jeans pocket and took off on my bike, my daughter on the baby seat behind. I returned home and promptly washed those jeans, wrecking the check. The next day, I told her and asked if she could rewrite the check which she shakily did and she started crying. When I asked her why she was crying, she said it was because she didn’t have a card or anything to make my birthday special. I reassured her that it didn’t matter and she stated, it matters to me. I understood what she was saying.
That small gestures and thoughtfulness matter is what I took away from this experience plus I made that last gift matter. I made two identical sampler quilts in that class, every single piece traced and cut from a template and then every stitching line marked. I sewed every piece together by hand and was piecing as I sat by my Mom’s bed on her last night. After her death I hand quilted both quilts and I have been quilting ever since. I don’t think I could ever repeat what I did in that class but I was a woman with a mission. Additionally I have tried to be the master of the small kindness and gesture that my Mother exemplified.
As I approach 60, I have been quilting for half my life. Now what? I’m seeking something new and I don’t mean like inventing a new mousetrap or jumping out of airplanes. I don’t even know what it is. I’m thinking designing quilts but I’m open to suggestions. Maybe next week all these feelings will have subsided but there’s a storm going on inside of me right now.
Realistically I have a lot more time behind me than in front of me. But who knows. I might just live to be 120 so my girls never have to have this “I’m turning an age my mother never did” crisis. How would my Mom have approached her sixties? I don’t know. But she probably wouldn’t have been the weepy mess that I am today. She was a very strong woman and she was my beloved Mother who taught me many important lessons.
From now on, I am proceeding without a road map, without an example or a trail to follow. My Mom’s life and mine were very different but her grace, her thoughtfulness and her compassion were always there. She showed me how to be a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She got cheated out of the dessert of life and as I am about to start enjoying mine I am flooded with emotion. I am mad that she never got to do and enjoy that which I will be able to savor. I am mad I didn’t to have her to enjoy my kids with me. I am mad and sad and just feeling all jumbled up. And I didn’t expect it.
30 years after I said good bye to my Mom I am grateful to turn the age I have long aspired to reach but that’s not all. I am having a flashback of grief that is shocking me. Maybe the answer is to just feel what I am feeling and then sally forth and create a road map for my girls. My mom gave me what I need, her examples will do me well in all the decades I plan to live.
Happy birthday, Mom, we’re turning 60.
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If you liked this post, you might enjoy this post as well. Sometimes I am emotional!