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Birthday Memories, Another Year by Grace O’Reilly

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Grace O'Reilly

Grace O’Reilly

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Tomorrow is another day, and also the start of a new year, but with a difference, my Dad isn’t here.  It is also my birthday!  I am not mad on ageing and going grey or wrinkly.  However, it is a thing that is denied to so many, so I may as well embrace it.  The likes of Helen Mirren and Cher are fantastic role models and also the late Betty White.  I like cake, I like wine and birthdays tend to have both cake and wine, so ‘Party On’, that is a good thing.

I will be 38 tomorrow, and on Friday the 1st of April, my Dad will be gone, one full calendar month.  I was with him when he took his last breath, which was unbelievably hard, yet so many have said it was an honour that I got to be with him to the very end.  It is also fitting, as the youngest of three girls, I was the only one who my Dad was actually there for the birth in Holles Street, Dublin on 30.3.1984.  So, he was with me and my Mum, while I took my first breath on earth and I was with him while he took his last breath on earth.  Dad collected me and my eldest Olivia from Holles Street back in 2011, to bring us home.  Her and my son Ben called him Tad.  I like to believe that we shall meet again, otherwise what is the whole point of life?  Eric Clapton’s song ‘Tears in Heaven’ is going through my head while I am typing this, and it was on my Spotify when he was in hospital his last few days.  Note to self and others, not one to play when your loved one is dying!  It’s mildly better than ‘Disco Inferno’ playing at a crematorium.

It will be extremely hard, waking up tomorrow and knowing that there will not be the usual Happy Birthday Gracie, message come in on my mobile phone.  They tend to say that the first of everything is hard, and so far, that has been true.  St Patrick’s Day was even hard and I wasn’t expecting that at all.  You see before I joined The Brownies when I was 7, my Dad used to take me to the Bray parade, battling to get me a lollypop or indeed one year on the Vevay Road in Bray, a cardboard hat with BP on it.  It stood for British Petroleum and was then renamed Shell.

I do have a nice birthday memory of my birthday being Easter Sunday, which it has been a few times, as it has Mother’s Day, (my 30th).  This particular year I was 6 years old and my Dad took me to see Bosco, the Irish puppet of the 80’s RTÉ television screens in The Lambert Puppet Theatre near Dun Laoghaire.  I got to meet him and I got a Bosco badge.  I had a howl of a time.  Santa also brought me a Bosco trike for my 3rd Christmas, which is probably a family heirloom now.  I wonder how much it would fetch on ‘The Antique’s Road Show’ on BBC, although I don’t think I would ever have the heart to part with it.

Mum used to make us all fancy cakes for our birthdays, all three of us.  One year she made me a robot cake and it was lopsided, despite being made with a gazillion pinches of love.  Poor Mum had to keep the robot cake from falling over by holding it up with spaghetti.  It still looked and tasted amazing, but it has given me something to write about now in later years.  Mum also made me a pink castle cake, using ice cream cones as the turrets of castle, and covering them in pink icing.  Back in the 80’s and 90’s, we would play party games like Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs or Statues to songs such as Kylie Minogue’s ‘The Locomotion’ or Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just want to Have Fun’.

Talking of the 80’s and 90’s I am wearing illuminous green cassette tape earrings that I ordered on Shein.  They were €1.50 or something like that.  My husband started a new job yesterday, so wish Simon luck, so he treated me to a birthday breakfast today in our favourite café in Gorey called The Hungry Bear, where we both had their famous pancakes.  Such lovely food and people in there.  Please can I have a free mug now for being a great customer??  Pretty please?  They have nice merchandise in there too, if you are holidaying in or near Gorey.

So, tomorrow as I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, instead of being sad, I will instead try to be thankful for the many loyal friends that both Simon and I do have, and enjoy every minute that we can with our two children.  They are both beautiful children inside and out and we are truly blessed to have them.

Here’s to the next year!

(c) Grace O’Reilly

About the author

Grace was a member of The Gorey Writers Group for 9 and a half years. She is still a member of Writer’s Ink, Writer’s Pen and Write Club in association with Red Books shop and press in Wexford town. Also, a member of the Irish Poetry Therapy Network and a member of Co-Operative Housing Ireland’s first book club, Page Turners. Longlisted in 2012 for RTÉ Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. Published both online and in print, Grace has contributed to two anthologies with The Gorey Writers, Fledglings 2016 and Taking Flight 2019, and most recently issue 2 of Wexford Women Writing Undercover, where she was also one of the editors for this edition. She read her work for last year’s Wexpressions as part of Wexford Literary Festival 2021 and often read her works for numerous literary events. Grace is also a book reviewer for writing.ie and Children’s Books Ireland, and is working away on several book projects of her own. She is hoping to promote awareness for invisible disabilities, especially the condition Fibromyalgia, which she was diagnosed with in May 2017, mental health and bullying in schools. She adores animals, especially dogs and tries to raise funds for these whenever she can.

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