Part of the reason I began writing over the past year was to try and explain our choices around donor conception to our children. Just in case I die sooner than later.
July 22, 2012 marks the completion of 37 years since my mother died of ovarian cancer, and the beginning of the 38th year. It’s not a “big” year, like 20, 25 or even 30. By the time we reach the 40th anniversary of her death, she would have been solidly into “had a good life” range, had she lived. It would be considered a massive loss but no longer tragic. Leaving 5 grown children and nine grandchildren instead of three teenagers and two younger children.
But this year the insignificant number carries a personal resonance. A personal milestone that each of my four older siblings has already transited. Their numbers were all different. Twenty-six plus 18. Twenty-seven plus 17. Thirty plus 14. Thirty-four plus 10. The number of years that she’s been gone, plus the age each of us were when she died, equals our special combination of numbers when we finally reach the age she was at death.
So this year it’s my turn. In a few months I’ll be the last child to become older than she ever became. A lot gets lost over 38 years, not that much was saved. Thankfully I have, and wear, her wedding ring, from my parents’ marriage in October 1956. I was wearing it when I gave birth to each of my two children, and I like to think that she must have been wearing it when she gave birth to each of us. Swollen pregnancy fingers are not a family trait. I have a few other bits and pieces. Some photographs. A small confirmation bible, containing words that she took little consolation from during her last year of life, from what I’m told. Every so often my stepmother sends me random ephemera that she’s discovered in an unpacked box from three moves ago. When I open the dusty pages of a personal recipe book and read my mother’s familiar 1940s handwriting, I like to hold it up close to my face and inhale. As if I’m breathing in a spec of her. And then I check to see if there are any special words written for me, but there never are.
So much can get lost when someone dies, and I don’t like to think of our children searching for something that doesn’t exist. The more I write and the more I explain, the better will be their understanding and acceptance about how they were conceived. At least that’s my hope. The only alternative is not to write and not to explain, but that just doesn’t feel like an option.