Today, Monday 9th November, would have been my father’s 77th birthday. Seven years ago, on this day, we were looking back at Dad’s surprise 70th birthday party the previous evening. It was the last time we celebrated with him. It’s also one of the last times I can recall the Mum I grew up with. Of course, she already had Alzheimer’s by then, though we were three months from the confirmation a diagnosis brought. We knew, though, that Dad’s time was short. He’d found out a month earlier that he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The chemotherapy was underway but, as we suspected, it had come too late.
But back to that party. We’d invited two of Dad’s school friends, one of whom he hadn’t seen for more than 40 years. Though my sister and I did most of the organisation – a sure sign in itself that all was not well with Mum – she was in her element, surrounded by smiles and love. And laughter, always laughter.
When I visited Mum on bonfire night last week, I mentioned Dad’s upcoming birthday. She looked at me, apparently uncomprehending, and laughed. The same person, laughing, but what was behind that laughter was so different from seven years ago. Still, I’m grateful that Mum seems content.
So, happy birthday, Dad. I’m sure that somewhere, deep inside, Mum is saying the same.