When the conversation moves towards birthdays I start exiting the building in spirit if not in actual physicality. When I was young, pre-six, birthdays I am sure were the usual mixture of good and bad that every other day was.
On my seventh birthday I discovered that my daddy would not be visiting because it was his girlfriend, Gwendolyn’s birthday. A relative of mine named it “Witches Day” and people wept. I didn’t, I went off up the hill and lit a wee fire.
The day I became eight I was encouraged to curse my, by now, stepmother and this ritual was repeated each year until she woke a few days after my tenth birthday paralysed. There was no need to curse the next year.
What a focus to have as a birthday, the ability to paralyse a woman 30 miles away, the inability for a child to celebrate a birthday and a man caught in the headlights. Gwendolyn was scared of the hold I had over my daddy so she kept us apart. We were apart for too long.
Every time I moved I gave him my address and phone number. Not that I am still counting but sixteen years ago he rang me. I was living in a castle; he wanted to speak to my children. I did not refuse but I set limits about when and how. He failed.
My female relatives told me later he only rang because he was drunk. He was drunk every day so that was not a valid reason. Gwendolyn, however, was not present. That was the key difference. She was having a bypass, triple, quadruple, quintuplet, who knows? But she had a stroke and he became a carer.
We finally had something in common but we didn’t communicate in this new community of caring. He didn’t take to caring very well; he drank copiously and met a new girlfriend. I think he probably always had girlfriends just one or two stick out.
The mill owner’s house with its servant quarters and my non-birthdays are all in the past. I am not ready to re-join the community of birthday keepers but every now and then I let it slip. Twenty five years ago I prayed to God for a baby and while I was doing that a girl-child was born on the other side of the world to a big family. She has happily lost too much weight, a bobble head on a skinny frame.
I told a friend on Friday I might write about birthdays one day but I was blocked at the moment. Well I am not blocked anymore and I have written about birthdays and I am thankful I have managed that. It is not a huge story; it is just what it is. A sad tale of thoughtless adults and impressionable children.
My daddy asked me to call him Tony when I was seven; very avant garde, but I needed a dad not just another man. God is my daddy, he is always around. Whenever I need him he is there. And we hang out even when it is just for fun, he guides me when I do stuff wrong to show me the right way. He is everything I need from a parent and more. It would have been nice to have a human dad but knowing I have a heavenly father I can rest in that.
So I consider my birth-day to be the day I became a new creation, transformed, and made new. God is my father and he loves me. I will continue to keep the day to myself and God because the emotions it invokes are difficult for me, forty years of difficult but within a few breaths I remember, this is different, this is real, and this is for God.