‘They would have been x years old today’

4th June 2019 | Daily Life, Musings | 0 comments

It was my father’s birthday yesterday. He’s no longer with us, but of course we think about him each year on his birthday, and we always say, ‘He would have been [x years old] today.’

My dad reached the age of 91, as far as I know the greatest age that any member of my immediate family has achieved. He died seven years ago, so it still seems perfectly plausible to say, as I did yesterday, ‘He would have been 98 today.’ One can easily imagine it.

But a younger member of the family asked, ‘How long are you going to go on saying “So-and-so would have been such-and-such an age today?” Surely there must come a point when it’s no longer reasonable to speak as though they’re still around, celebrating birthdays in some sort of parallel dimension?’

But what is that point, where imagination should accept a reality check? As lifespan increases, the point must be gradually advancing. At the moment, common sense would probably stop me from saying that a person ‘would have been x years old today’ once the number goes above 100. It doesn’t feel quite reasonable to say ‘So-and-So would have been 117 today’.

On the other hand, each January 27th I seem to find it quite normal to mention that Mozart, to take this year as an example, ‘would have been 263 today’. Somehow that doesn’t seem ridiculous!

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