Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 24th June

It’s Carl’s 50th birthday on Friday and we’re all gearing up for a great bash on Saturday. He has asked us three girls (his sisters) to give a speech, either together, or individually. It brings is home that neither of his parents is here to do this.

Birthdays are one of those occasions on which you do two things, I think – apart from celebrate and open presents! What birthdays do is to make you reflect on a lot of things, I reckon, not least of which is what it feels like to be getting older. (Actually, on that score, I think most of us stop growing older psychologically at about 17 and just accept the numbers that life throws at us 😉 ) The second thing that birthdays do is to create the circumstance for looking at the people around you. For Carl, as for all of us, that means being acutely aware of Mum’s passing; and realising that, even though Dad went 5 years ago, that is not really a very long time.

I think milestone birthdays do both of these things ‘in spades’, as they say.

There is something about wanting your Mum and Dad to be with you to mark any important occasion. It’s not quite the same without them there.

Of course, Carl turning 50 makes me reflect on my own 50th. I refused to have anyone else speak, but me. Instead, I got Carl to organise anyone who was willing to send through a message on video, all of which he compiled into a movie that was shown at my party. On this DVD, Mum gives such a lovely message to me – mere months before her death. And I can revisit it whenever I like. That, in itself, makes having her not with us all the time both harder and easier to bear.

I think that so many things in life are like that: there is the really good about them and the really difficult.

The cancer thing is, of course, possibly the epitome of this: as much as the idea of a threat to life is permanently linked to the very idea of ‘cancer’, so is it also a very life-affirming and encouraging thing to experience.

I suppose that is the beauty of life: there is always a flip side to something either really good or really horrible. Nothing is ever completely ‘this’ or ‘that’. What we need to learn to do is to roll with the horrid and celebrate the lovely. That way, we will be sure to reach a balance at least most of the time.

So, Carl’s birthday and the party will be really hard, especially for him, because of the constantly present absence of Mum and Dad. It will also be wonderful, because of the occasion, us all being together and Carl’s enjoyment of both of these.

It’s not every day one’s little brother, in-law and uncle reaches such a milestone.

Bring on the party!

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