Opus 32

9 Oct

I feel old.

My daughter asks, as we read a book of numbers with her sister, after she’s seen herself, 6!, which one I am. She pauses before I can answer, remembering, oh! you’re 32, spitting the words out like something she doesn’t like to eat, squash or raw potato. Not as old I remind her, as my father, 71 and kicking, able to take their affection, even at 7am.

She asks what old is, arbitrarily plucking 89 out of the air before her. She tastes the number, rolls it around for a bit, then quietly asks will I live to be 89? I’d like to be 89? and of course I answer it’s a fine age and she will see it, maybe even with a few or 5 of chubby grandchildren around her, and suddenly, I can see and imagine it, my baby beyond me, my legacy in her arms and lips, something around the eye of daughter 2, or in the way her grandson holds his arms when angry. I swell to see those children.

I can glimpse her future, slightly.

Lean to the left, and I see her, another her, at 35 maybe, alone, pleased to be there, her hands in pockets dirty and worn as her feet carry her to another passion, a world away from mine, her children those creatures or words she keeps safe, her life circling itself, drunk on the beauty she savors and protects. I am proud of her here, of her strength, of the will I’d like to think she kept of the things I bequeathed her, of her beauty itself, the beauty she never sees, busy for the trees and the people in her path.

She’s breathtaking at any age, and she makes me feel mine, even at 6.


I want to believe, closing my eyes and burning it in to my brain, that I can still go anywhere, be anyone, dance on the moon, eat rice in Nepal. But at 32, rapidly setting in on 40, I know that any adventures I have now, at this adult age, will not be those I’d have had at 17. They’re different with the world and a mortgage and people who rely on your bank account waiting for you. I know I could go-I know we could sell everything and disappear into the masses of somewhere else, but freedom isn’t the same when ultimately, your decisions decide someone else’s future.

32 doesn’t feel so far removed from 17, but dammit if it doesn’t feel so scarily close to 40, which is SO fucking removed from that teenage girl who still lives in my chest. That teenage girl who is so eerily like this 6 year old wondering, how old are you anyway? Are you really that old? Is it old? Why are you old?

Why am I old? Am I old? Is this number an excuse to keep me tethered, to warn me, to hold me to a promise I don’t recall making? Does age come with the tears that flow when you imagine your firstborn daughter in labour, birthing her firstborn? Does age matter when you can see the people your children might be, a mechanic or physics teacher, working away at their lives? Does age come with the wrinkles that come crawling up my hands, the droop in the skin, the pop in my joints that makes Vivian ask what was that noise!?

Who will we be with age? Who will we be for them, as we leave-what message will our age leave them? Do we bemoan our wrinkles, our grey hair and dropping paunch, or do we embrace them as signs that wisdom has collected and called? Do we stand tall and state these numbers-32 or 45 or 66 and remind our daughters that age is as it should be. We desire to grow up, we desire to be aged, we wish to no longer be the pretty fickle things our youth gave us, instead turning to the women we rightfully should be, strong and proud and not quite so foreign.

Why do we hide our nature?

I tell Vivian, clearly when she asks, 32, I am 32 now, and I don’t mind, not one bit. 15 was fun, so was 23, 26 was pretty damn cool, but growing up-that’s how life is and how we should dance with it. We should embrace that age, this age, our age, and teach our daughters to grab it by the horns and honor it. My adventures-my experiences will be different at 45 than they were at 20, but who is to say that they won’t be richer for that difference? Who decided age came with liability or dishonor?


She saw my Motherless Mothers book on the way to bed, asked what it meant. Because my Mommy was gone when I was 11 I answered. And I have no idea what a 12 year old girl looks like because of this, and the book will help me understand age. At least, I hope.

Are you going to die when I’m 11?

That question I’ve been awaiting for 6 years. The tears I struggle to reign in. The price of disclosure I suppose.

No. I will live long. A long time. Until you’re 89. She’s not old enough to know that’s a lie yet.

I feel old now, my mother’s 43, or rather, the 37 or 38 she would have been when I was 6, weighing on me, like a noose. All the things she never did, the horses that never ran through dark fields for her, the sweet granddaughters who never graced her lap, the love in my veins for her,  they dangle on the honor of my age just now, and I feel heavy.

I won’t die. I whisper. I have far too much to do.


15 Responses to “Opus 32”

  1. Kelly October 9, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    Oh, how I love this. I don’t bemoan my age. I find myself as lovely as I have ever been. My body, my mind, better than they were at 19.

    As for aspirations and longing to discover, ooooooh…I know this. We are buying into suburbia and I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just give it all up and join the peace corps, raise the babies in some foreign country. I’m all deep sighs at this.

    I worry about the day Jack comes asking me tough questions about love and death and why he was not born of my body. I hope I answer with grace such as you did.

  2. Sol October 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    hi thordora, I liked your post, sometimes I feel very blessed and very fragile when I get to hug my Damiano who will be 3 in January and I think my mother wasn’t around to hug me when I was like that, I must have been adorable like he is and no one was around to hug me and it terrorizes me, that in a universe inside my head I don’t get to hug my children. Sorry if I comment seldom, I read you often. Thanks for your blog, it’s a gift to me.

  3. Jurgen Nation October 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    Here from Twitter, having seen @ordinaryart RT your post. I wish I had something far more articulate and profound to say for my first comment (first comment of, I think, what will be a longtime readership – thanks, @ordinaryart!), but all I can think of is how beautifully written this is. I don’t know about the motherhood aspect as I’m not a mother, but I get the feeling old/not feeling old issue. I feel sort of like, if I knew that I was capable of being strong when I was younger, who knows what I could have done. I could have been more, I should have done more by now. And I’m trying to double back and make up for lost time by getting my Ph.D. and all that, but still. That makes me feel heavy, to borrow from your eloquence.

    So, while I can’t relate to having children and viewing this issue from that lens, this speaks to me in so many ways.

  4. Jurgen Nation October 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    I created a site called IndieInk (www.indieink.org) and I would be so honored if you considered submitting this there. I really think this will resonate with so, so many people. No pressure, just saying. 😉

    • thordora October 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

      I shall ponder thusly. Thanks. 🙂

  5. Laura October 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    I sometimes feel like I can glimpse my children’s future, and I don’t even have kids yet. It’s a very strange feeling.

    My dad’s dad died when he was 12… Until the day I turned 13 I spent a lot of time worrying about him. Probably starting around age 8 or 9 or something I guess. I never had the guts to say anything to him about it though… I just waited.

    (That video/song is so beautiful.)

  6. Hannah October 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    Oh. Oh my. I know, I do. Isaac is forever asking me how long I’ll live. I lie to him, too.

    This was beautiful, and poignant, and sad, and lovely, all at once.

  7. Missy October 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    Fucking hell, that was a beautiful post.

    I hit “play” on the video as I started reading it. An excellent accompaniment. I just *don’t* cry, and I almost did while reading this.


  8. slouchy October 10, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    This was gorgeous and wrenching.

  9. magpie October 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    Slouchy said it perfectly: gorgeous and wrenching.

    Age is such a funny thing – my calendar age, my mental age, they seem not to converge, but of course they are – they are me.

  10. et October 10, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    But the kids will grow up and you will be pushed out the other side of motherhood.

    More time for you then, and perhaps longing for the times you could hold them close.

  11. Maggie, dammit October 12, 2009 at 11:12 am #


  12. baltimoregal October 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Maggie sent me here and it’s lovely. Good on you for reading the book and confronting the issue and the hurt, hard as it is. My mom lost her mother at 5 and never could bring herself to go there, or even watch a TV show about it- the hurt is just to great for her to bear.

    You and especially your daughter will benefit greatly from it, I’m sure.

  13. Titanium October 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    Beautiful and profound. Thanks for submitting to IndieInk! It was great to see this post there today…

  14. Michael October 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Gorgeous. Amazing.

    What an astounding piece.

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