Monday, August 21, 2006

People Die Near Their Birthday

I've always been an idiot savant with dates. I remember everyone's birthday even if I can't stand them. My brain refuses to delete that Mrs. Ellenson was born on February 9th. She was my next door neighbor 34 years ago.

Long gone, Mrs. Ellenson was always annoying and she continues annoy me to this day by taking up valuable room in my head. Damn it. Get out! Now, I need that space to remember where I leave my glasses.

My obsession with dates led to my theory that 89% of people die near their birthday.
I made up the 89% part. It's actually more like 'a lot' but 'a lot' that doesn't sound nearly as scientific as a hard number. 89% makes people sit up and take notice. "Really? 89%?" And, then I mumble something, anything. But, it's true...you always hear "She was just 74." "He would have been 81."

Every year I harrassed Jimmy with "Be careful. You're in your danger zone, you know" from a month before, the month of and a month after his birthday. That's the three month window. That's my definiton of 'near' your birthday.

Jimmy's birthday was March 14th so from February 14th until April 14th he was suseptible to falling down a manhole or getting the killer cancer that actually did take his life on April 13th. Some people never get a chance to say good bye. I never got a chance to say, 'I told you so.'

Actually, I tried. I'll never know if he heard me, but I begged him to hold on. "You know how you hate it when I'm right" I whispered to him that last day.

We were only four months apart in age. We were in the same grade and when Jimmy turned 21 and I was only 20 I wanted to be 21, too. (although, the drinking age back then was 18) Naturally, as we got older I held on to every second before I turned "the same age." Forty was huge. "You mean YOU'RE forty" I would taunt. "I'M still 39."

When Jimmy turned the corner this March to be 56, a year closer to 60 than to 50 I smirked. I was still safely smack in the middle and we played our silly back and forth routine. Not so funny, anymore looking back because I had no idea that he was sick and never ever imagined that this would be his last birthday.

On July 7th my own 56th birthday arrived without fanfare, without Jimmy. He wasn't there to tease 'You're catching up.' I had to face that he will never be older than me. His time here on earth is over. I may continue to my next birthday, but he will always be 56.

You'd think I would have realized we're not going to grow old together before that moment. I'm sure I did but not quite in the same gut wrenching way. This date obsession thing puts it all out there for me to see.

And, I had been dreading today, August 7th, the day I am past my own danger zone. If I had died yesterday Jimmy and I would have lived the exact number of days. It doesn't seem fair.

My friend told me I'm feeling 'survival guilt.' Could be...A lot of spouses left behind feel this - exactly 72%.