Recent headlines about Laura Linney giving birth at age 49 have sent my mind swirling, yet again, to a very distant time.
I grew up in a 1950’s household consisting of two parents, two grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all in one house. Brooklyn was different then, as was everything. Some things were better and some things much, much worse, but for me, the closeness of my family meant safety, comfort and security. That all ended with the very early death of my dad when I was eight, but of course my parents were quite old when they had me, by 1950’s standards. My mom was 40 and my dad, 34.
When my dad died the color went out of my world. The neighborhood started to feel different, I was bully fodder and my grandfather died a few months later. So it went for a decade. The busy, tumultuous household of my early years became silenced as the death of each member occurred. My mom was the last of her generation to go. Mercifully, I had her until she was 86, a full 40 years after my dad’s stupidly early passing but only a few short, very short years after my twins were born. I too was an older mother, even by 1990’s standards. And so Laura Linney’s story resonates with me.
What never gets said about the biological clock is that it stops ticking not when you find you can’t conceive but when you stop breathing. I miss my mom and will for the rest of my life but what makes me the most sad is the very short time she had with her only grandchildren. I wish they had known her longer, had experienced apple picking with her, or doing homework, or going to the movies. They never tasted her latkahs or legendary chicken cutlets.
It’s not just our biological, ability to conceive clocks that have not kept up with the times. Our lifespan has not kept up with our desire to postpone mommyhood. As this trend continues, as older mothers give birth to older mothers and become even older grandmothers, something will get lost. Our family dynamic, the precious time we have to share our parents with our children, is shrinking. I know it’s not a reason to shift gears and have babies sooner, but I think it’s important to give voice to this so sad reality. Something may be gained but something very, very precious, is also being lost.
I miss you, Mom.