You would have been 29 today. Nearly back in the same decade as me. We used to joke about it. When we started seeing each other, you were 19 and I was 27. When you turned 20, I told you I was happy that at least we were now in the same decade (at least until I turned 30) so the age difference no longer looked so big. You told me that once every 8 years, we would get to celebrate the event of you catching up with me, at least for a few years. We only got to be in the same decade once. You never made it to your thirties.
Would you be happy for me if you were able to know how things are going for me now? I would like to think you would be. You were always a generous woman. I seem to remember you once told me to grieve short and hard for you but then just get on with life and be happy again.
As life is settling down, I am thinking of you a fair bit again. Not in the sense that I am unhappy without you. I am happy with my life as it is. Girlfriend is wonderful. You would have liked her a lot. She looks after me extremely well and is the most understanding person I could ever have hoped to meet. You probably would have gotten pissed in The Racehorse together and laughed at the idiotic things I do. You would have asked her if I still interrupt people all the time. You would have laughed at Girlfriend rolling her eyes at that one.
At university, I learn more and more about bodies, health and dying. This obviously means I think about you a lot. How you were not healthy; how you died. How your body worked. How it did not work. What the medication and chemo did to you. I try not to think too much about how learning more makes me feel I should be able to apply that knowledge retrospectively to what happened to you. I did not know any better.
Did I treat you with enough respect when you could no longer make your own choices? Did you understand when I said: No more chemo? Did you want to shout: BUT I WANT MORE CHEMO, YOU ARE KILLING ME? Did you realise you were not drinking and eating? Did I understand you enough? Did I have enough patience to wait for you to form an answer in your head when asked if you wanted to die at home or in the hospice? You said hospice. Then home. Then hospice. Then home. Basically, did I listen enough when you were trying to tell me something? Out of all the things that happened, that question will forever haunt me. I know you were going to die. I think you knew it too. But did I treat you with respect. Did you feel I abandoned you and just sent you to a quick death? I know you would never have thought that I wanted you dead. But I hate the thought that you might have been angry or desperate to tell me not to give up on you.
Dammit. I was jut going to write you for your birthday. Because I never talk to you anymore. I did a lot just after you died. But I stopped feeling the need to do that.
I guess I just wish I could somehow tell you that I am happy. That I am doing fine. That somebody loves me. And that I can love somebody again with all my heart. But that none of that means I don’t think about you anymore.
Today I am working with R. She looked after you when you were still home. Seems fitting that on your birthday I am working with the people who helped me to look after you and who helped me to be sure I wanted to go to university.
I went to the Birmingham Christmas Market today with Girlfriend. I remember when we went for the last time in 2010 when we were grateful you even made it to celebrate another Christmas with you. And last year I met Rachael and your mother there. I should speak to them more.
My folks came over from Holland last week. My dad said it was wonderful for both of them to see me happy again. Because all their previous visits in the last 4 years have been when there was a reason for them to worry about you or, after your death, about me. It made them happy that this time they visited me and found me my chatty self again. That this time there was nothing sad about the visit. That they could see I am happy. And this in turn made them happy.
I wish I could let you know not to worry about me. I guess that is as good a birthday present to you as anything.