15: At what age do you remember learning about mortality?
I don’t remember ever not knowing about it.
There were two cats, a dog and a mouse in the house when I was born and they’d all disappeared by the time I went to school. I must’ve been told they’d died because my parents certainly didn’t subscribe to the “the dog’s gone to live on a farm” school of parenting.
Mum taught me to read when I was two so that I could get my eyes tested properly. I would’ve been into the books not long after that, and when you think about it there’s a lot of death in fairy stories.
There was an old geezer who lived across the road, referred to as Old George, and he was on his own because his wife was dead. I think I vaguely remember the conversation about why he lived alone, but I already knew what “dead” meant.
I was taught to cross roads when I was four so that I could take myself to and from school (how times have changed!), and I understood perfectly that if you got it wrong the possible consequences were death.
One summer we camped on the east coast and went to visit a lady whose husband Dad had worked with on the forestry way back when they’d first moved to Scotland. I remember being told about an hour before the visit that Willie was dead and we weren’t to mention him for fear of upsetting his widow, and sitting with my mouth clamped shut for the whole evening, terrified of what might come out of it and what the consequences might be. (“Your daughter’s very quiet?” “Yes, she is.”)
I think maybe this is one of the ways that strongly-suspected-autism is a blessing - death has always seemed like an entirely logical organic process, nothing to get confused or upset about. With that said, I did also think my dad was a Vulcan till I was twelve, so y’know.
Last updated November 15, 2020