Sometime when I wasn’t looking, I got old

I’ve never thought much about my age, probably because I never really acted my age.

As a child, I understood things a child shouldn’t understand.

At around 8 years old, I looked my father in his eyes and said, “Sometimes you don’t remember things when you drink.”

When I was 15, I spent all of my free time in the library researching melanoma and chemotherapy and radiation (this was pre-internet folks). I kept two notebooks and wrote down everything I learned. When my mom’s doctor told me the radiation would get rid of the cancer, I knew he was lying because I knew the radiation schedule she was on was only meant to make her life more comfortable.

In college, while my friends were out partying, I worked 3 jobs.

There was always something urgent. There was always some pressing situation that kept me running, kept me working towards a goal.

Until there wasn’t. Until I became the adult I always acted like and until I realized that all that running never really got me anywhere but older.

It wasn’t meaningless. I value all of the experiences of my life. I just wish I could have slowed down at the time and actually experienced them. Almost nothing was ever as urgent as I thought it was and what was urgent was never within my control.

I’ve become stagnant, not so much in life but in passion, in living. Without that sense of urgency, I’m lost. I’ve slowed down . . . something friends, family, and therapists have been telling me to do for years. But they never told me what to do once I slowed down . . . and I haven’t figured it out yet.

My 33rd birthday passed last week and it was the first time in my life that I didn’t want to celebrate – not because I think 33 is old . . . but because 33 is old for me.

I don’t always think about how my mom died when I was so young. The thought doesn’t dominate my life. But every so often something slaps me in the face and reminds me. My 33rd birthday was one of those somethings.

My mom was 33 when she laid on the couch at my aunt’s house on Easter, tired and in pain. She was 33 the next day when she went into the hospital and was told she had a compression fracture in her back. She was 33 two days later when the doctors told her that it wasn’t a compression fracture but that her cancer had come back. She was 33 that Friday when she held my hand and told me, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. I want to see my grandkids some day.” And she was 33 4 months later when she took her last breath.

This time of year is always tough. In another week, it will be the 17th anniversary of the day my mom died – of the day my world collapsed. Because more than anything else that has happened in my life, that experience is what has left me broken.

I was never as strong as they all thought I was. I just latched on to anything “urgent” – anything that could distract me from the pain. And now that I’ve slowed down, now that I’ve become stagnant, I have nothing to distract me.

But you can’t strip away 17 years of mourning overnight. I’ve been peeling that onion slowly over the years and I doubt I will ever reach the center. But sometimes . . . during those moments when I’m slapped in the face . . . I cut away entire chunks.


13 responses to this post.

  1. I can’t believe I missed your birthday! 😦
    Happy Belated Birthday even if it doesn’t feel so happy…I can’t even begin to know what you went through in losing your mom…my mom is 69 and there are times when I think ahead to milestones in the future if I have kids and it makes me sad because I realize that my mom probably won’t be around for them like she was for my sister’s kids. When I think of my mom being good, it makes me so sad so the fact that you lost your mom at so young of an age….Wow…my heart breaks for you, it really does. If you lived closer, I would give you a really big hug right now.
    I sometimes forget you’re only a little over four years older than me because you seem so wise and reading what you said from when you were a kid, I see you always were older than your years!
    All I can say to try to comfort you through the upcoming days is that you are such a great mom with an amazingly beautiful, smart and funny daughter and take care of yourself as well as you can so you can continue to be that great mom you are to her! If she turns out anything like you, then this world will be a better place because of it. 🙂
    ~Hugs~ My good thoughts go out to you, dear friend!


    • *being gone…not good…sorry!


    • Thank you for your words and your virtual hugs!

      One of the things I love about this age though is that I listen to my friends talk about their moms like you talk about yours, with such love and respect. It was tough in high school listening to kids say they hated their moms and couldn’t wait to get away (referring to the loving, though sometimes overbearing, mothers . . . not the ones who were truly abusive), and it broke my heart. So now when I hear people talk so positively about their parents, it makes my heart happy 🙂


  2. What a powerful post, Dayle. I’m crying with you–and yes, slowing down IS the hardest thing. I totally get that. In fact, I was feeling just that today–without a pressing deadline, it feels like I’m just treading water. You are an amazing young woman–33 is young and I hurt for you and your loss of an amazing mother at such a young age. Just wanted to let you know that I love you—and am sending a hug from Mississippi as we wait for this storm. . .


  3. This post has a really strong resonance for me – I have often wondered how I will feel if I make it to the day that I am older than my mother was when she died. I hope it will pass without comment and yet…

    There is a lot of life after 33 for many many people and I hope that you find some thing that pulls you forward without driving you into the ground.
    Take care and keep taking it slowly. Cherish these days because you know that they are gift not everyone gets.


    • It’s such a weird feeling . . . to know I’ll be older than my mom after this year, but yes, there is a lot of life left and it is certainly something to cherish!

      Thank you so much for words!


  4. Thanks for sharing this, Dayle. Wonderfully written piece! You’re not old yet. . .wait until you get to be 39 like me! 🙂

    This time of year is tough for me too – my dad died on September 29, 2000. I was 27.

    I don’t think about it every day either. I think your onion analogy applies to me too. I know that writing about it helps, as I’m sure it does for you.

    Take care.



    • Thank you, Jared!

      Writing does help. It always has. And I suspect (and hope) that it always will.

      I think we need to cut away those chunks from time to time . . . I think it helps with maintaining some sort of stability the rest of the time!

      Yes, I know I’m not actually old . . . and 39’s not old either! 🙂


  5. It’s amazing how writing makes living with pain bearable, though it never takes it completely away. I’m sure that your Mom looks down on you and is so proud of the woman and mother that you are.

    And you’re not old Dayle! You can’t be, because then I would be too! 🙂


    • Haha, then, nope, definitely not old! 🙂

      You’re so right about writing!

      Thank you so much, Paula.

      (On a totally unrelated note, I’ve been loving your 31 day challenge posts! I’ll try to get over there to comment soon 🙂 )


  6. Well, I suppose you got old the day your mother died. That will surely do it to you – it’s done it to me, as well.
    That must really be tough that she died right around your birthday. For her at the time and for you now.
    You are so right about the slowing down. It’s much easier to cling to all that urgency than to have all that time staring at you.
    Sending you tons of hugs.
    And I agree w/ everyone, you’re not truly old at 33 at all 🙂


    • Thank you for your words and hugs, Anne . . . and hugs right back to you!

      “It’s much easier to cling to all that urgency than to have all that time staring at you.” I like that line . . . sums it up perfectly!


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