My Birthday Eve

Tomorrow, October 18th, is my birthday and it was always a day that Mother and I saw as being ‘our’ day. We celebrated it in our own little way, for example, for years and years and years she made me a walnut coffee cake with an ever-increasing number of candles but it’s a cake that I’ve certainly never been able to make to the same taste, even though I have the recipe. I think she must have had some magic touch or extra ingredient that she added!

This will be my seventh birthday since Mother died in May 2009 and it is certainly a lot easier than the first one without her. I went on a 13 mile walk for charity that day to try and make the day matter. It was a good idea but I was a bit of an emotional and physical wreck before, during and after the walk as I wasn’t very fit and was heavily involved in caring for my father who was also grief-stricken and frail but who was totally behind my decision to go on the walk ( That was the last birthday I shared with him and we had a good laugh about the walk and all it involved!)

Seven years on, I’ve learned to be prepared for a surge of memories that surround all the birthdays that I shared with Mother. Today, I bought snowdrop bulbs to plant in her honour tomorrow (as well as Dutch Master daffodil bulbs for Dad). I also booked a ticket for a musical show in Waterford’s Theatre Royal for tonight. It was the magnificent Two Brothers,  Vladimir and Anton Jablokov, playing their violins with heart, passion and brotherly instinct.

Mother was never far from my mind as I bathed in the music. It suddenly dawned on me that at that time 58 years ago, she would have been in the little nursing home in Tramore, just down the road from where we lived, waiting for my arrival.

Father was at home with my sister (6) and my brother (3) and I regret now that I never  asked Mother very much about that night. I was born at 12.20am.

As I drove home from Waterford to Tramore this evening, I stopped at the house where Father would have been minding the other two and took note of the very short distance between the house and the nursing home. The tide was well in tonight and there was a lovely whispering from the waves when I opened the car window. I hope Mother had the sound of the sea to help her through the labour pains.

I had a root through a few old photo albums when I got home and found this photo of my brother and sister which I strongly suspect was taken around the time I was born:

My Sibs
My Sibs

The photo makes me smile as Mother used to tell me how my sister was bitterly disappointed that I was totally bald and not a bit like her doll, Emily Anne. (As you can see, I had a fair bit to live up to!)

It feels right and proper that Ireland should be playing in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Final slap bang in the middle of my birthday tomorrow as Mother and I never missed an International Rugby Match on TV together. I know she’ll be with me in spirit as I hide behind a few cushions cheering on the Irish team, with hubby and son,  in its battle against Argentina.

So Happy Birthday to US, Mother, and you were right, ‘Love IS elastic.’ 

Birthdays and Mother ~ a Symbiotic Relationship

I grew up in a household where great emphasis was put on birthdays. As it happened, the year was nicely punctuated with the five birthdays ~ January, March, June, October and December.  Mine is the October one and falls tomorrow.

I really only fully realised the extent to which birthdays and Mother were totally intertwined when I faced into my first birthday without her three years ago.  In the literature associated with losing elderly parents, there is relatively little emphasis put on the emotional upheaval that can be associated with birthdays without mothers. This is in stark contrast to references about anniversaries of death or major festivals, like Christmas.

I think it would have helped me enormously if someone had taken me aside before that first birthday without Mother and said: ‘Hey, I think you should be warned that birthdays are never, ever the same after your mother has died because the birthday has huge meaning and significance for the mother as well as the child ~ whatever age the child is ~ and now there’s only one of you left to celebrate.’ 

Three years on, I’m much better equipped to deal with my birthday without Mother because I’ve come to  know that the days around October 18 will bring back so many memories of birthdays that we shared.  Tonight, it suddenly came back to me how Mother always made a walnut coffee cake for my birthday. I was back sitting on the tall stool in the kitchen  watching her ice the cake and handing me the spoon to lick.

It’s never big things that come back to me ~ just the warmth of her smile and the sheer pleasure of remembering birthday moments we shared ~ like the time when I was seven or eight and we waited together on Main Street, Castleblayney for the bus to arrive from Dundalk bearing a pink padded dressing-gown that she had bought me for my birthday present.

Tomorrow, whatever the weather, my thoughts will be with Mother as I plant snowdrop bulbs that will bloom without fail on her birthday on January 29th.