Birthdays always seem to catch me off guard. This year, that just seems to be a little bit more so.
As I type this my youngest of two has turned 14, tomorrow her brother will age up to 17. Yes, two children one day apart, with roughly three years between them.
As I type this, they are not in my home, but rather with their father for a few weeks’ visit. Sharing isn’t always easy and while I know it’s just as important for them to be with their father as their mother, it’s still hard waking on birthdays with empty bedrooms.
Sometimes I feel as if this is simply preparing me for the inevitable. The birthday after all is the process of the obvious: growth. They are indeed growing up and someday they won’t wake every birthday in my home. Yet it’s still not easy.
Now before the haters get to the keyboard, I acknowledge there are much worse things in life than being separated from your child on their birthday. I mean, have you read my columns this past year? Trust me when I say, I completely get that.
This could also be the reason why birthdays now just hit me a little differently than they did one year ago. Walking through something with a lot of unknowns (by way of health) can have a profound effect on one’s vision. That’s what I’ve learned the most from the past 14 months of this life.
There’s just a lot of gratitude I now find myself with, on a pretty regular basis. Often times it finds its way out via my eyes leaking.
It’s a feeling which even as a writer I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to properly explain.
Last week I was fortunate enough to go for a short two mile run. Midway through, I found myself in tears. While the run wasn’t painful and my pace was less than stellar (more of a run/walk, in honesty), I was still doing something I once wondered if I would ever do again.
That’s the reality of learning you have Stage 3 cancer, with a treatment plan which will take one year to complete. It just simply leaves you with a lot of unknowns.
Even if you are an optimist, sitting on the other side of news you never expected to hear can leave one a little defeated. While that may be only for a moment, the mind simply does race to thoughts of what does it all mean – big picture.
As the tears fell I realized how grateful I was to do such simple things, like go for a run or wake with my kids and wish them a happy birthday.
Later that morning, caught in the shower, still simply overcome my partner inquired about the tears.
I honestly shared it was hard to explain and while I know his concern was genuine, I also knew he wouldn’t understand. Patiently listening to the reason he quickly replied, “So it was a good run?”
Laughing I shared it was probably one of my worst, but none of that mattered anymore because the point is I can do it and that’s a gift.
So now as I look to life ahead of us, I think of the good fortune to be able to wish my children a happy birthday and yes, in due time celebrate them in person.
Sometimes in this life, we are simply so busy being busy and talking about what’s next we forget about what’s happening right now.
In the end healthy or dealing with an illness the lessons are all the same; wake each morning with a smile and a thank you. Greet each day (even the rough ones) with the audacity to make it better than the day before. And when those birthdays do arrive, live them as big as the day the world celebrated your birth because life is indeed a miracle.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.