26 March 2022

I am unprepared for this birthday

Today is my forty-fourth birthday and, strange as it may seem to say so, I feel woefully unprepared for this day. In about an hour I will attain the same number of years as my father when he died, which is to say that if I live another two hundred and thirteen days - and I know of no reason why I should not - I will outlive my father.

I know birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, but today I feel very much unsettled. That is the best word I can find to describe the sort of melancholy I am experiencing today. Whatever it is I am feeling, there must be a good German word for it, but I do not know that language of compounding words.

Two years ago, when I surpassed my mother's age at the time of her death, I did not feel this way. I do not know why, but I suspect it was because it was my father who died first. I would not say I feel guilty for not feeling unsettled that day, but something like it is also affecting me today.

The experience of grief is a curious thing. I do not really know what I feel today. I am in something of a fog. No one has prepared me for this day, nor could anyone have done so. I am surely not alone in what I am feeling today (lots of others have surpassed the age of their parents), but I feel a bit alone today.

Even so, these words of J.R.R. Tolkien bring me comfort today, as they so often do:

The link between father and son is not only of the perishable flesh: it must have something of aeternitas about it. There is a place called "heaven" where the good here unfinished is completed: and where stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet... (Letter to Michael Tolkien, 9 June 1941).

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