Today is not my birthday. But it does mark the day that I am older. Oh, sure, every day is a day that we are older than the last. But today is the day that I am older than Paul. And there’s something incredibly sad about that.
You see, Paul was a few years older than me, and it was quite common for us to joke about our age difference* (about 12 years). For Paul, the line was the standard: “I’m only as old as the woman I feel” joke. Which, no matter how often he said it, made me smile. For me, the line was: “I’ll always be younger than you!” And sure, I suppose part of me knew that might not hold true once we got into “proper” old age, but we had decades before that was a consideration. Or so I thought…
But now, today, that time has come. Now, today, I am older than Paul, older by a day. That is 17,318 days of life for me, compared to his 17,317** (far, far fewer days than he deserved). I am sad about this shift in our age difference, although not in as much “despair” as I once thought I would be. But then, my relationship with my grief has changed over all these years’ experience.
It’s odd, really, this awareness of a single day. But it’s different from other time-based awareness that I’ve felt over the last 12 years. For example, I still can’t bear the thought of anything with an expiry date of 26 April, the anniversary of Paul’s death. And whilst I am not so averse to things dated 27 November, Paul’s birthday, I am very aware when I see the date. And, of course, 21 May (our wedding anniversary) and 6 and 8 February (the day we met and our first date) are dates I always smile when I see.
And now, there’s an awareness of today. Although I doubt it will be a day I remember into the future; it is a one-off awareness for a lifetime of change. A change that I could feel coming on since I turned 47 in February.
Yes, 47 is a change I could feel coming. In part because I knew once I hit 47, I would pass the point of being younger than Paul. But it’s more than just the difference in our ages.
Since Paul’s death, the number 47 has felt sad to me. I think it’s too much to say the number has “haunted” me***, but I have felt something in relation to the number. I have felt a sense of something. Again, not a haunting or a supernatural sense. More of an awareness that 47 carried a sadness in my heart. And in a way, I’d grown to “hate” the number 47.
However, I noticed that my reaction to the number 47 changing as I got closer to my 47th birthday. And, indeed, it has changed even more the last few months. Where before I looked at 47 with sadness with the slightest flinch of grief and would avoid the number if I could, now I look at the number and think “Hey, I’m 47!”
47 is my number now. And I must embrace this number for the positives that it will bring. (I already made a soft announcement for one of the biggest positives of the year!) I must allow myself to move beyond the knowledge that Paul’s life ended at 47 and I must remember that he would want me to live a life of happiness. And now that I am living my life in the extra time that Paul never had, it feels a little more important to live it well. But even though I have felt the shift of 47 moving from a sad number to an empowering one, I can still feel the sadness in today.
I am a day older today. I will be older every day for the rest of my life. And try as I might, I can’t find a way to joke about that. Although if there was a joke to be made, I know that Paul would be happy for me to make it.
* Like most couples, we had a wide range of “inside” jokes that we thought were funny. And they were… to us!
** For those counting, that also means 4,471 days of a world without Paul. But don’t worry, whilst I do count the years, I haven’t counted days, weeks, or months since long before the first anniversary of his early death. After all, I am not known for my numeracy skills.
*** Paul’s father died at the age of 47 when Paul was just 6 years old. He was very aware of that and has expected (as we both did) that he would live much longer than his father did. This only added to the awkwardness of 47.