My Dad was 44 years old when I was born; I loved my Dad, but as a teenager and into my twenties I swore that I would not be an “old” father. I felt at the time that the age difference wore away at our closeness; we had very little in common and I did not want that with my children. He was 65 when I graduated from college; he was 74 on my 30th birthday; he lived for another 19 years and died when I was 48. The age gap didn’t make that much difference to our closeness in the end; somehow spending time shaving him and combing his hair, dressing him, taking care of him, talking to him all the while enabled me to rediscover that connection we had, but there were lost years no doubt before he got older and more frail. But I was angry too that he wasn’t the strong man I knew as a youngster. And for a while I cursed being 44 years younger than my Dad. But I was lucky that his long years of outdoor, physical work gave him a robustness that belied his years and he lived a long life. When I hit my forties childless, I was actually happily resigned to not having children.
I have good genes when it comes to ageing; my Dad was 93 when he died, my Mum is 82 and still going strong. But our lifestyles are not the same – I have not done physical work day-in, day-out for 28 years; I sit at a desk 8 or 9 hours a day. And I do things that my parents did not that I know are not longevity-enhancing.
I was just reaching my 48th year when my son was born, older even that my father was. I will be 65 when (if) he leaves home to go to college; I will be reaching my 77th birthday at his 30th birthday party. If I’m around.
Before I had a child, I never thought about ageing; becoming a parent at a relatively late stage in life has made me very aware of my own mortality, not in a purely selfish way but because imagining my son’s life going on without me fills me with sadness, for both of us. I will miss major milestones in his life; I might never know his children nor they me, in the same way that my son does not know my father.
As is gauchely said, it is what it is. What good does thinking about that do me? Actually a lot of good because it makes me cherish every interaction I have with my son, however small.