As my mother was dying, the tissue and transplant team came to me, asking what they might be able to use of hers. My mother was a thrifty woman, as am I, so I was happy to have this conversation. It went well until they asked me her date of birth.
“June 27th”, I said.
“Year?” said the nurse.
And I paused. You see, for all the time I can remember, my mother said that she was “as old as her little finger and a little older than her teeth.” Observations based on aging were of no help. Women in my family look about the same from 15- 25. We look about the same from 25-40. Then we look about the same from 40-60. We are not so long-lived that I can really tell you what we look like at 80.
When my mother died I had an idea that she was past 60, but I could not tell you how far past 60. Maybe 62. Maybe 72. I didn’t know.
They consulted her chart. Got a year. She died and I really didn’t know. I wrote it down somewhere, but when asked how old my mother would be, I still default to answering “as old as her little finger, a little older than her teeth.”
This doesn’t fit on a form. Especially not the sort of ridiculously officious forms from the government, which require your mother’s date of birth.
June 27, 1947.
Or as old as her little finger and a little older than her teeth.