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Since the death of María del Carmen Bousada de Lara (see link below) in July this year, the media has been like a pack of hounds smelling blood and nipping at the heels of every new mother matronly enough to be a candidate for HRT.

Despite the fact that none of us have walked Maria’s shoes nor experienced her “process”, as usual, there’s a line-up at the door taking tickets to see the gallows.

It was just the sort of hot corpse the moralizing mob—“procreational ageists,” prepared to legislate conception from teens to seniors—was salivating for.

And it fell right into their laps.

(In fact, I’m sure the 55 year old self-proclaimed “granny” from Santa Cruz—who wrote and told me how selfish I was—feels that justice, at last, has been served.)

With smug satisfaction, they’ve been pumping up on media hype and pointing the finger like Scrooge’s grim reaper in a turkey shoot, trying to predict which of us is next to drop.

In fact, having children over the age of 50 (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Pregnancy_over_age_50) seems to be the new benchmark for public moral outrage. (I feel positively dimple-cheeked and dewy-eyed having given birth between 42 and 45!)

Having said this, yesterday I had a day surgery to remove a fatty cyst from my back which had been thriving there for several years—it set me to thinking about my mortality and our incumbent responsibility to prepare our children for every eventuality.

It comes from the category entitled: “Things that go wrong as you get older.”

So, when Lizzie’s goldfish went belly-up this morning, having had her tailfin devoured by her soon-to-be-transported-to-a-neighboring-koi-pond supersized roommate, we seized the opportunity.

Pinky’s untimely demise was an educational tool for our children—after all, the rest of the world is expecting us to go belly-up too, any day now.

(Maybe we should prepare for it—like earthquakes, tsunamis or the chance of getting hit by a car while bereft of clean underwear.)

With this in mind, I tenderly toppled myself over the edge of the bed about six in the morning, after Lizzie woke me by slapping me squarely over my recent surgical wound.

By nine, Frank was on the telephone from his Bluetooth in the car, driving Alex back from ice hockey practice.

Before I could whisper “hello”, he had launched into a somber soliloquy about “How Alex took the news…”.

I winced as I sat down on a hard, unforgiving wooden kitchen chair.

“And then he turned his face to the passenger window, you know, to have a few quiet tears to himself…”  said Frank, with deep, unfettered fatherly compassion. (Bob Cratchit will now sing for his supper.)

“Is that so?” I replied, weakly, wondering if they left the scalpel lodged between my ribs when they closed yesterday and if the codeine the pharmacy had provided was out of date.

Suddenly, there was the sound of a car horn blaring cruelly over the telephone followed by a long (pregnant) pause.

“That truck driver just cut in front of me and didn’t even give a crap!” snapped Frank, clearly on a knife-edge of indignation.

I sighed.

“Speaking of not giving a crap” I responded in a softly modulated tone of the sort that used to be written about in Harlequin romance novels, “are you going to ask me how I’m feeling this morning?”

“Oh, sorry. How are you then?” was the articulate reply, delivered by He-who-would-be-folding-all-of-the-laundry this evening.

We buried poor Pinky by Lizzie’s nectarine tree on the great hill overlooking the low pastures dotted with twisted oaks, side by side with sprawling strawberry fields as they rolled langorously into the setting sun.

Frank shoveled a cupful of soil into the loaf-sized hole in the ground and offered the shovel manfully to Alex, who stood stalwartly by his side. As Alex grasped the shovel reverently with both of his hands, the tears sprung from his eyes and he whispered: “Daddy, I can’t…”.

That’s when I led him inside for a motherly cuddle, followed by the four-year-old owner of the deceased fish, who was bouncing Tigger-like at the end of the procession, eager to be of service.

As the tears streamed down his cheeks silently, I commiserated by way of offering an intermittent tissue on which he could blow his nose, while Lizzie provided the entertainment.

“Would you like a purple bunny, Alex? Huh?” Then she’d run off to the nether regions of the house, to return with the desired object and prop it under his chin, like a rescue dog nose-rolling a keg of brandy.

“Would you like a whale, Alex? Would a whale be good?” The pile was getting higher, and a small plastic bathtub whale was wedged precariously between Alex’s nose and the head of the purple bunny, on top of a fluffy pink flamingo cradled in his lap.

“How about a tissue, Alex? For your eyes?” offered the four year old nurse, eagerly.

I said nothing. I said nothing because death, for the most part, is unpredictable, fickle and finite. It is part of life from the moment we are born.

Goodbye to Pinky is just the beginning of a long, snowflake chain of goodbyes, each one more unique (and no less poignant or painful) than the last.

I said nothing because sometimes there is nothing you can say.

There’s nothing anyone can say to make me feel better or whole again after the untimely passing of my sister at twenty-three and my mother at fifty-four, even though they died decades ago.

I say “untimely”, but when is there a good time? Untimely is spoken of when referring to those who died too young.

But in my book, it’s always “too young”.

Statistically, men have a shorter lifespan than women—yet, at eighty, my father tears up tiles on the ballroom dance floor on a Saturday night.

Our cleaner was a grandmother raising her granddaughter because her young mother died of an overdose of heroin at 34.

(If I were the insurance gecko, I’d have put my money on the old lady!)

Grief and death are part of life.  And no one can tell us when our number is up for certain, although they can argue in statistical probabilities, actuarial tables, as well as the exceptions that prove the rule.

It’s safe to say however, if you have children in your sixties or seventies, it is more likely you are going to die when your children are young.  You don’t need to be a qualified actuary to figure that one out.

As the saying goes, you can’t close the barn door after the horse has bolted. Ergo, once the children are born to those late-life bloomers, there are alternatives to consider.

The sales pitch at my son’s elementary school is that it “takes a community to raise a child”.

(After several 14 hour shifts of unrelenting childcare on my own, I’m inclined to agree.)

It would be a word to the wise, certainly, if “elderly” mothers were asked to consider having their extended family and community in place before they take the plunge.

In fact, once upon a time, that was how it used to be, I’m sure, when Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara was young.

Notes for this blog:

Ref: María del Carmen Bousada de Lara (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Maria_del_Carmen_Bousada_de_Lara)

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