A subconscious thought keeps spilling out of my mouth.
You know the kind of thought I'm talking about. The one that's lurking at the back of your mind, ignored and buried by the mundane details of the day. The one you don't mean to say aloud, because it's out of sync with the conversation. You regret it as soon as it's out, but you can't help but expound on it, explain it, making the interaction even more awkward.
People have been wishing me a happy birthday, understandably, for the last couple of days. Most of the time I respond with a simple "Thanks! It's been great!" and move on. But on the occasion where more details are called for, I start talking about how great it is to turn 49. How I'll be celebrating big over the next three years. How 49, 50, and 51 matter.
How my mom was diagnosed with ALS at 49.
How she died at 51.
What I don't say is how I'm nearing the end of my roadmap, trying to figure out how to fill in uncharted territory. How I can't imagine how my mother coped, facing a terminal diagnosis at this time in her life, because she kept most of those thoughts from me. How I've scheduled a complete physical for the first time in a long time, half-afraid of what may turn up. How I question every muscle cramp, every accidental choke on spit, every time I feel short of breath. How I look at the clutter in my house and think I really have to clean it up, just in case, so my family doesn't have a mess to deal with when I'm gone.
How I fight off those fears by planning the details of these years, like writing lots of letters and finally getting that motorcycle license, having drum circles and bring-on-menopause parties, and getting my third and final tattoo, the one that has to incorporate the number 51. How I bury those three ugly letters, A-L-S, under mundane details like laundry and work and meals and child rearing...and birthdays.