It’s kind of strange the way we count years. A birthday or anniversary marks the completion of the year we identify, yet we tend to think of it as marking the beginning of that year. The fifth anniversary marks the completion of five years and the beginning of the sixth, for example, yet if someone asks how long you’ve been married during that sixth year, the standard answer would be, “Five years.”
Children have a sense of this inaccuracy. Introduce a child as being nine, and you’re likely to be corrected: “Nine and a half, actually.” No kid wants to be thought of as nine when she’s really not.
(If you’re having trouble understanding this, think about the way we number centuries vs. the way we number years. The 1900s were the 20th century; we are now in the 21st century, even though the current year begins with 20.)
Today is the last day of my mother’s 7th decade on this planet. Tomorrow she will turn 70 — complete her 70th year and begin her 71st. It’s cool to think that she’s reached the milestone identified in the last major birthday party I threw for myself, my “Halfway to 70” party. (A lot of people were very confused by the theme, but thankfully they came anyway.) This gives me hope that I might actually make it that far.
(That isn’t just foolish posturing, by the way; I’ve now surpassed my father’s age by more than a year. Realizing this has helped me understand the incredibly weird dynamic my midlife crisis assumed over the last couple years – it was a sort of endlife crisis at the same time. Talk about heavy!)
In honor of my mother’s birthday, I offer a poem I wrote 20 years ago:
Mother, you look
so beautiful and
I look like you!
I saw you
in the mirror this morning
“she’s beautiful” before
I realized she’s me.