My wife wished me “Happy Birthday” before she went to bed, I hadn’t realised it was after midnight occupied as I was with killing some Taken with my friends. I eventually went to bed too.

I fully awoke the next morning to an empty house. My wife had left early to teach a training course; my youngest daughter was at school; my son was on a sleep-over with a mate; the eldest on a trip with friends. I didn’t want to get up, I would have laid in bed longer, in my safe zone, but there were things to do today. Three things were on my mind:

  1. I needed to spend some time at “work”;
  2. I was attending a memorial service;
  3. I needed to get a birthday meal from M&S.

I dressed appropriately for a memorial service – bright blue mountain biking shorts, and beige trainer shoe things. I wanted to wear my bright red t-shirt but after much searching compromised with a burgundy polo shirt. The service was for my friend Tom who I had met through a book group a few years back, and his widow had stated that people should not feel obliged to wear black for the service. I had always been impressed by Tom’s cycling prowess and felt my summer wear was therefore appropriate. Tom had been diagnoised with bile duct cancer in January; he died three and a half months later, aged 56.

My dog greeted me with his usual enthusiasm when I left the bedroom. I got down on all fours to give him a hug while he pulsed and wrived with excitement. I thanked him for his imaginary birthday wishes.

I could see a crystal clear blue sky out of the kitchen windows as I walked up to the table, the dog trotting beside me squeaky ball in his mouth. There was a small pile of cards and a couple of presents sitting at the front of the table. I recognised some of the envelopes I had stored in the cupboard from previous days; I noticed the present my eldest daughter had left in her bedroom for me wasn’t there. I felt sad that nobody was there to share opening my cards and presents so I decided to wait until the evening meal when everybody would be around me.

I have an uneasy relationship with my birthday. For some reason that I can only put down to being incredibly shy, I never had a birthday party as a child. I wanted one. I went to birthday parties. My older brother got a party ten days before my birthday, but I never did. It did emphasis what I felt though, that I was different, and I wonder now if I felt also that I wasn’t good enough for a party. I could ask my Mum, but I don’t think I will like the answer. Sometimes my shyness as a child comes up in a group, and my mum will laugh about how when I went to play group it was thought I should be sent to see a psychologist. The laugh indicates it was an absurd idea, but I wonder what my life would have been like if I had the early intervention that was indicated. Parents do the best they can, but it astounds and annoys me that she dismissed this advice so easily.

It is important to me that I celebrate my birthday on the actual day; it’s a rule I have that I suspect is left over from childhood! Unfortunately life does not revolve around my birthday and so I have to compromise. The only time when my immediate family was together this year was two days before my birthday so I coined the term “pre-birthday” and had a pre-birthday lunch. Pre-birthday indicates an event connected to a birthday but that takes place a few days before the actual birthday. By corrollary there can also be “post-birthday” events.

I also had a pre-birthday celebration with two of my cycling friends. We went for a fabulous sunny warm ride in the local countryside, followed by cake, coffee and chat in the garden, followed by outside table-tennis. It felt like I was on holiday. My psychiatrist friend did point out that my obession with my birthday date was rather “autistic”. I agree.

There is one present on the pile though that I suspect is from my wife. She came back from Spain recently, and whilst away asked for my chest size. I open the tissue wrapped present and inside I find a red t-shirt. Wow that’s amazing! I find out later that apparently my son suggested red was my favorite colour. I immediately put it on, on the front are the words “campus stellar” and above them is an image of what I would call the Milky Way. To me, a t-shirt with a field of stars on seems even more appropriate for a memorial service.