If things were normal, I would have been in work until at least 12pm today. I’d have probably bought a breakfast bun to keep me going because I was getting into the habit of that on a Friday. Along with Thai Wednesday and Chippy Thursday, our team were doing a great job of maintaining unhealthy meals!
I would have definitely been talking about my treasured Nanna Doris throughout the morning, because if things were normal, she would have been turning 75 today. As soon as I finished work, I know I would have called her. I’d have sang “Happy Birthday” down the phone and she would have laughed at the other end. The best part of all our birthdays was hearing her sing to us with her brilliant energy and hilarious humour, so we always went over the top when it was her turn! I would have told her how excited I was to see her and how much I loved her. I would have spent the afternoon making sure everything was in order for her celebrations. She absolutely loved birthday card verses and I have no doubt that Darren would have chosen the perfect one for her big day. I would have added a heartfelt message from the two of us and signed the bottom as I always did – “We love you so much, Bex and Darren xxx”. Darren would have probably bought a big badge for her to wear, too. I’d have wrapped her presents, double checked that we had all the tickets for the show and then waited for Darren to finish work. When he got home, we’d have walked down the street together to see her.
We would have burst through her front door and shouted “there she is!” when we saw her. We would have sang the all-important song again and danced in front of the TV to make her smile as much as possible. She would have sat in her chair and laughed out loud. I can see it and hear it now. If she asked us to sing again, we would have. She was the only person in the world that we both acted like complete fools for! She’d say “Come on, Harry!” and my Grandad would clap along with us. We would give her card and presents to her. She would read the card twice over and beam at her presents with her big, beautiful smile. She would have asked which one she should open first.
I had already planned to give her Jane McDonald’s autobiography because she adored her. She loved watching her cruise programmes on Channel 5 and would show us recordings of her happily skipping down the gangways when she boarded the ships. She told us that she loved watching her and she said that those clips reminded her of me. I once told her that is exactly what I looked like whenever Darren and I went cruising, and I pranced around the living room to show her. The four of us had laughed so much.
Another present we’d have given Nan today would have been a fluffy rabbit hot water bottle. She had a hot water bottle in her bed every night and this one would have reminded her of her little friend, Keefa Rabbit, who she loved immensely. She honestly used to buy Keefa birthday and Christmas presents as though she was human! Another gift we had already decided on was a canvas photograph print of me with an alpaca! Nanna saw the picture months ago and thought it was so cute and funny. She had asked for a big version of it and I had told her we would get it for her to add to her collection. I know she would have loved seeing the full print. I imagine she would have asked my Grandad to hang it up straight away.
Nan would have probably told me what she was planning to wear this evening. Sometimes she asked me to help her choose. I would sit on the end of her bed while she brought clothes out of her wardrobe and we would decide together. I always told her she’d look amazing and she truly did whenever she dressed up. Darren and I would have soon left to get sorted for the night. Once we were dressed and ready, we would have gone back to their house and I’d have asked for Nan’s opinion on my outfit too. No matter where Darren and I went, whether it was a wedding, a christening, a birthday party, even just for drinks with friends, I always nipped round to Nanna and Grandad’s house beforehand to ask for Nan’s advice on my outfit. She would often give me handbags and necklaces that she thought would go perfectly and she was always right. People would repeatedly compliment me on the accessories she had given me and it made me smile to reply with “it’s my Nanna’s”. Whenever she told me that she thought I looked “stunning”, my whole heart lit up.
We would have headed to Francesca’s restaurant together tonight and met the rest of the family for tea. I know I would have kept checking my handbag for all 13 tickets! We would have had our tea with ice cream for dessert (no doubt!) and I’m certain we’d have asked the staff to sing to her again. After the meal, we would have arrived at the Forum to watch my Uncle Leye’s show. Nan would have beamed with happiness and pride watching him onstage. She loved seeing him up there and she was especially honoured whenever he mentioned her name. My Dad and Leye would have made a huge fuss of her later on. If things were normal, it would have been the most perfect birthday night out for her.
Right now, things are far from normal. For me and my family, for you and yours. For everyone. None of us know when things will be anything close to ‘normal’ again and some people, like myself, are trying to establish a new and far less familiar version of it. The key is to carry on with love and determination in your heart, despite the fear and sadness, no matter how hard it might feel. You have to focus on the positives. They are there. If you can’t see them, you need to look harder. Things will be okay in the end and if they aren’t okay – then it’s not the end.
Sending my love and hope to you all. And of course, the biggest, boldest “Happy Birthday” to the brightest star in my sky.
Thank you for everything you did for us. For making us smile and laugh so much. For showing us what true love and real happiness feels like. For being my Mum, my Nanna and my dearest friend wrapped into one wonderful person. We love you endlessly! xxx