The beauty in not knowing – a personal tale

granada 1930s

My mother-in-law died earlier this week.

Heartbreaking – she was a lovely, elegant, generous woman who got such pleasure from affection, laughter and good company. We miss her so much.

I won’t tell you about the strength of her struggle that surprised all of her doctors and nurses. Nor will I tell you about the beauty in a typical Spanish death – loved ones gathered around her bed, chatting, laughing, crying and chatting some more. So many people came to say goodbye. She would have had a great time.

I do want to share an anecdote that emerged as we were discussing the resulting paperwork: it turns out that no-one knew her real age.

She grew up in Granada, in southern Spain. During the Civil War, the registry that held her birth certificate burnt to the ground, and with it, all record of her date of birth. So, when she went to get the replacement issued, she decided to shave off a few years. We don’t know how many, and the only proof we have of this is the testimony of her eldest sister (who left us a few years ago). Tía Mari always swore that no way was her little sibling’s birth year 1927.

This story left me feeling wistful. Of course we don’t care how old she really is, and nor can it be important for anything that mattered in her life.

But these days, it matters – so much access (to education, employment, even bars) depends on the date you entered this world. It forms such an integral part of your identity. And the fact that the information is today (or soon will be) stored on servers means that losing it to history is increasingly unlikely.

Especially when (ok, if) a blockchain platform ends up totally removing the possibility of manipulation and loss. The information will become much more reliable.

But a certain chaotic charm will be gone forever.

RIP María del Milagro Pérez-Hernández. And thank you, with all my heart, for all you gave me.

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