Saturday, 26 November 2011

Al's birthday

It’s Al’s birthday today. Am a bit down. Not as low as I feared I would be but feeling somehow flat ... and yet emotional.

So far today I haven’t received a single acknowledgement. I’m due to take my mother and daughter for lunch in an hour. I’ve been putting off getting ready because I’m not even sure whether my mother recognises the significance of the date and I’m dreading having to listen to her bang on about her cold or other trivial ailments for a few hours.

Update:  As I typed the last sentence, I received a text from another bereaved Mum. It was much needed and perfectly timed.
We then collected the Birds of Paradise from the florist – they seem so representative of Al so I try to get some on his significant days. Then we drove to my Mum’s place to collect her and take her for lunch. We called her 10 minutes before we arrived to let her know how long we would be. When we got there, we then spent 20 minutes calling her phone and ringing her bell only to have her announce (without the slightest trace of embarrassment) that that she had popped out to chat to someone.

We arrived at the restaurant and ordered food. She asked, “Is it the 27th today?”
“No mum it’s the 26th – it’s Al’s birthday.”

“Oh – I think I’ve got an appointment on the 27th – I’ve lost track of the days ha ha – is it Friday or Saturday today?”
“It’s Saturday Mum. It’s the 26th and it’s Al’s birthday.”

“Oh right. I wonder when that appointment is. Mind you that woman is always making mistakes – the one who books the appointments.”
“I don’t think you can have heard me Mum. It’s the 26th today and it’s Al’s birthday.”

“Is it? Ooh.” Eyebrows raised as it sinks in. “Eeh it goes fast [pause for 3 seconds as she thinks] I can’t think when that appointment is. I’ll have to check when I get home.”
I sat seething. Not only had she no awareness  of the significance of the date, but even when it was pointed out, it failed to make any real impact on this selfish woman who has spent the last two and a half years loudly proclaiming how much she loved him. My youngest caught my eye and squeezed my hand sympathetically.

I swallowed down the fury that was slowly building, managed to eat something, and asked if she needed any shopping whilst she had the car at her disposal. She did.
When we got to the supermarket, to give myself a breather from her, I wandered through the clothing section. I found a skirt and tried it on. Pleased with what I saw, and glad I had something positive, however trivial, to focus on, I said, “Oh my word - this is a 12 and it fits perfectly on the hips but I’ll have to reduce the waist by 3 inches – it looks like I’m officially an hour glass figure now.” Considering my massive weight loss over the past few years, (and the daily criticism as I grew up re my obesity) you might think she’d want to congratulate me but instead she said that all the sizes were wrong - "they're all big in here" - and then added that she could probably get into a size 6. To prove her point, she grabbed one and held it against her. Again my daughter shot me a sympathetic glance as I said, “It’s OK Mum – I won’t compete.” However, the irony was lost on her.

It was a relief to get her and her shopping back to her flat and to leave as quickly as possible.
I arrived home to some much-needed emails from people who had remembered and a lovely card that a friend had popped through my door. This was quickly followed by a couple of texts acknowledging the date. What a relief. I thought it had been completely forgotten by almost everyone.

I had a text from my sister in law – that’s the closest I got to any contact from my family. Ironically, she buried her grandfather last week and is very low but still managed to find time to lay some flowers for Al and get in touch with me – unlike either of my sisters, my brother or my father.
I nervously logged onto Facebook to find half a dozen messages for him from his friends. It tickles me to think that they speak to him via Facebook. It feels as if they imagine him sitting on a cloud with a couple of beautiful white wings fixed to his back and a halo (albeit, knowing my boy, somewhat skew-whiff) and logged into Facebook saying “Yo bro!” as he reads messages from old friends. Those messages, from young people who knew him, meant a lot – he hasn’t been forgotten.

And he lives on in their hearts as well as mine.


  1. I was out of the country until late yesterday, so all I can do now is send you a belated hug. I know from my daughter who writes to Kieron religiously every night, that by doing this she is keeping in touch with him and I guess that this is what Al's friends also feel and it brings him closer.
    Unfortunately people do forget, although HOW DARE THEY? But they do.
    Sending you, Al and your girls loving thoughts xx

  2. Oh Bev.... that woman wants a good hard slap... seriously. Just makes me sooo mad every time i hear about her, i'm so sorry you have to put up with this. x