Friday, April 23, 2010

Milestone: First Birthday

Friends and family much wiser and more experienced than me have hesitantly (and yet, very kindly) told me that the first year after losing your Mum is the most difficult. True to their words I am finding that daily living is proving to be wearisome, fraught with anxiety and melancholy emotions. The reality of not having my Mum a telephone call away pops into my mind repeatedly again and again...and again. Just getting through the day is a job in itself -- a job that I never, ever wanted to occupy, but yet here I am....

The arrival of holidays, anniversaries and annual special events are usually to be looked forward to, the highlights of the year, right? Unfortunately, I am now part of the club that realizes that they bring with them a unique disquiet and pain that the daily grind doesn't recognize. Many of us spend these earmarks in the company of loved ones, and the concept of such occasions without them is just too much to even consider.

My first major event without Mum... my birthday, snuck up on me this past week. 

I have always had an annual birthday celebration with my Mum. Always. Even if it didn't fall exactly on the day I was born, I would make sure to be with my Mum a few days prior, or after. It was just our way. In our family, it was unheard of (and unwanted!) to skip the festivities with our Mum. She made them special like it was nobody's business. As a child, she would invite all our closest kiddie friends and create a theme that suited us to a T -- one of my earliest memories features homespun cardboard Snoopy's adrift atop a single balloon affixed to the curtains, hanging from the light. Mum was a natural born artist and her flair was on full display to all. Why gather store bought decorations when my Mum's homemade variety were that much BETTER! 

When we hit adulthood, the invitees were often just us, just our immediate family unit. Mum's creativity continued with homemade signs, full of colourful construction paper emphatically shouting out our names in unabashed celebration! If your birthday that year featured a special age: 20, 25, 30! -- she would craft a multitude of numbers and painstakingly attach tiny threads so they could hover from the light fixture above the dining room table. Her famous chocolate cake was always on the menu along with whatever we craved for our birthday feast. Whatever it took, Mum would go that extra mile to make our birthdays unique and all about us. 

It's telling that the last family birthday we had together before she fell ill last year, Mum slaved away in her kitchen for days prior to the big event, concocting all sorts of her delicious Summery salads along with the penultimate dessert. Living up to type, Mum cooked and cleaned and crafted yet another beautiful birthday celebration. As it turned out, Mum wasn't feeling very well at the time but she was never one to complain. Later, we would become conscious of her malady when she suddenly had to be taken to the nearest ER. 

This last party before Mum became ill was full of laughs, cheer and happy memories. Just as Mum would have wanted. 

My birthday was this past week... my first without my Mum. There was no morning phone call with a sing-a-long birthday greeting. No cards arriving via the post with her exquisite penmanship. No chocolate cake rising in the oven back at my childhood home. Nothing. Unfortunately, I am now part of a club that no one wants to belong to... the club where a beloved Mum is gone and life and all its frills will never be the same. 


Darren said...

I stumbled across your blog as i was feeling my heavy heart this Monday morning, this is the start of another week.

However it is not the start of just another week, this is like you the start of an even more painful week, for tomorrow is my 40th birthday. Not one that i would ever have looked forward to as it simply illustrates how old you actually are getting, but one that i would never have expected to feel so empty about.

Everything that i have read, in terms of your own story/feeling around your birthday resonates with me, the feelings, the emptyness, the wish to return to happy times.

Like you i lost the person who brought me into this world, the person who has spent the last 40 years caring for me, the person no matter what who would always be there for me my lovely mum. We lost her in March this year.

Everything feels so numb for me, so unreal, it seems like yesterday that i was returning from my summer holiday in September, my mum had been house sitting and looking after our dog, seemingly as healthy as normal. Now, in less than a year she is gone, i watched and cared the best i could while lung and liver cancer arrived, and simply destroyed her in just 6 months.

I know for both of us the loss is still too current, still to close to present day, no doubt still the thoughts and pictures of what we have been through will in itself bring pain, but somehow i know we have to carry on and grow. My mum brought me up to know what i have to do, and i will to the best of my ability live out her legacy.

Tomorrow will be just another day, a milestone which should have been marked, but one which will be too painful to truly acknowledge, but one that we must face for my two daughters as much as everything else.

Jackie said...

Thanks for your comment, Darren. I'm so so sorry to hear of your Mum's passing. March was the month that my Mum died. It will soon be three months which is hard to believe.

I won't lie to you - the first birthday is very difficult.

What did get me through it and the few days following was to be busy, to mark the occasion in a manner that would have made my Mum proud. It still felt incredibly odd because she was always the centre of such celebrations. In a sense, it all seemed quite hollow, like I was just going through the motions of what "should" be happening.

I think your daughters will be a big help on your birthday. They'll want to acknowledge your birthday and make it special for their Dad. Sometimes it helps to have such a lovely diversion. I hope you do manage to have a good day - the best you can, in your own way. More than anything, don't let anyone tell you how you should be feeling on such an occasion. You have to experience all the emotions in your own time, in your own way.