Kage Baker was one year and 20 days older than me. (Which is funny, because I am one year and 20 days older than my sister Kimberly …). This meant that for 20 days each year, Kage was technically 2 years older than I was, instead of just 1.
I used to tease her about it, especially as the years went by and we both became ladies of a certain age. She would snarl amiably about it. When my birthday came around three weeks after hers, she would triumphantly remind me the universe was now back in balance and she was not either two years older than me!
She was 57 when she died, two years ago: 5 months shy of her 58th birthday. So that first year, I caught up to her: I hit 57. Last birthday, I passed her and reversed the age gap to 1 year. And this year, I have become in my turn 2 years older than Kage.
I’m 59 today. But my now being decidedly the elder won’t have a convenient end; things won’t revert to normal after a comfortable few weeks of teasing. Forever after now, and for the first time, I’ve turned a corner in the road where Kage did not precede me; I’m seeing a road she never knew.
There is nothing like having your elders die to suddenly bring The End into focus. The crowd of people between you and your own personal termination point begins to thin; your parents, your siblings, your friends – ultimately, all those folks have danced the last waltz, gone to sit along the wall and watch, and you are alone on the floor in the dark spotlight. You are the eldest of your line, and how the heck did that happen?
It gives one quite the frisson, if not the outright collywobbles. Still, somehow, Kage and I had always figured that we’d step out together. Probably in a bizarre accident involving tomatoes and rum and several flaming explosions. And we planned to enjoy some old age first.
Ah, such plans we had! Getting old was an inevitability we had finally admitted, somewhere around 55, but we planned to become a hilarious pair of old ladies. The sort who wear Converses and hoodies, and carry sword-canes. Saying outrageous things and speaking one’s mind had gotten much easier – after a certain point, it seems the social brake pads just wear out. If we ever ended up with blue hair, it was going to be because we dyed it bright electric blue.
Mind you, none of those things is ruled out now. Not even the bits with the tomatoes and explosions … but it really wouldn’t be as much fun.
Nonetheless, I keep walking. One of the enduring things Kage taught me was to enjoy the road while you’re on it, because who can say if you will ever see it again? And look for new roads all the time, too. She did. Literally. And when we’d take a turn we never had before, or set out to some utterly new destination – she’d settle herself happily in her seat and exclaim: “New road! God, I love a new road! Drive, Rasputin!*”
And I would. And I do.
* from Bewitched. Endora’s chauffeur.