I have no fear of turning thirty. Just as I have no fear of turning thirty and a day.
Birthdays, much like Holidays, aren’t very important to me. I will give them this credit though: they are excellent at bringing about much needed self comparison.
Where was I a year ago? Ten years ago? Four Christmases back?
Funerals do the same.
Where was I when my father’s father died? Well, I was at home, and I was 11, and he was living with us, and he was in a coma, and then finally he stopped breathing and I walked into his room to say goodbye. I waited in the living room until two men in white came in and wheeled him away. I don’t remember the funeral. All I have are little flashes of grey and cold and my uncle’s face, frozen. I remember by mother’s hand. I remember always taking my mother’s hand. I don’t remember my father that day, but I know he was there.
I hated the feeling of not being able to do what I wanted. I hated the feeling of lacking control and all I wanted to be was an adult so that I too could freeze my face in the cold grey days that hurt me.
I stopped taking my mother’s hand. I was to be an adult.
When I began working, I never stopped. I worked as many hours a I could and I kept working and I kept working so as to be an adult. I remember that’s what my father did and that’s what he was doing on those nights when dinner was late.
I didn’t take more than a week or two off for about 5 years and then I decided that I needed to visit my mother’s side of the family in Israel. It pained me to step away from what my life was, but I did. I’d be gone for ten days.
My mother’s father wasn’t doing great, but he had not been doing great many times, and he had always recovered. I brought my camera and I took pictures and I tried to ask questions and I don’t honestly remember anything about those ten days except for a few bright flashes and dust and sand and my mother by the beach she grew up on as a child.
That’s not true, there is one thing I remember but I have a hard time talking about it.
My last night on that trip was my grandfather’s birthday. Some of my cousins came over to their small apartment that my grandparents had lived in since I can remember and I sat at one end of the long table and my grandfather sat at the other end. He was pretty frail, but it was his birthday, and he insisted we open a bottle of wine. He almost never drank wine but he knew I loved it. It was terrible wine, but we held our glasses high and proud and were together. As we sang happy birthday, I knew it would be the last time.
I don’t remember much from my childhood, to be honest, but I see flashes. Simple things: short drives, a scary slide he coaxed me to go down, the cows they’d take me to see at the old agricultural school that he and my grandmother started when they were teenage immigrants. The collection of bells that all had different tones and the small fruit platters that all had old wooden handles that collected the smells of all the foods that had ever been in them. The old computer in the corner. The look on my mother’s face. Never frozen. Never, ever, ever, frozen. Never.
Where was I when my mother’s father died? I was at work.
I sat on the curb outside my office and I cried, just like I cried in the airport as I drank a better glass of wine by myself on his very last birthday. I cried.
And then I went back to work.
I didn’t go to his funeral because I had to work and it was 10,000 miles away. My sisters and my mother sent me photos. Those are my memories. I have no memories of what I was doing during his funeral.
I have flashes. My mother’s hand. The faces of my sisters. A flag. The dust. A spread of food and an obituary. All in my head. My mother’s hand. The one I could not take. I wasn’t close enough. I was an adult.
I had become an adult.
I have no fear of turning thirty. My only fear now is that I will remain an adult forever.