It's Ben's 23rd birthday today. Before he developed anorexia back in 2009 this day was usually loud and noisy with the sound of umpteen boys laughing, yelling and generally messing around up in Ben's attic room. You see, Ben's birthday parties were legendary. Indeed so many friends were invited that his parties had to be held in two shifts - countless friends one day followed by countless other friends the next with a sleepover inbetween. Then, during the years of the eating disorder, the house fell silent - apart from the final birthday sleepover when his anorexia had begun to rage and we had Ben hurtling downstairs in the middle of the night screaming and weeping because something had upset him. The following day was subdued as the boys' parents collected them from our house. The contrast between emaciated eating disordered Ben and his normal friends was heart-breaking. His friends stopped coming to our house after that and Ben's birthdays were solitary affairs with just the family. I remember his 18th birthday being especially poignant as he told us how down and depressed he felt - to be 18 and have no friends to celebrate with...
Over the past few years Ben has built up a new circle of friends - and another circle of friends at university. When he's back home, these friends descend on our house in varying numbers for games of Warhammer or Dungeons-and-Dragons-style Role Playing Games (RPG).
Today all of them are here. The hallway is full of boys' shoes and coats, and there is a lot of noise coming from Ben's bedroom.
Positive noise. Whoops, cheers and laughter. Just as it should be. And, despite not being about to hear myself think here in my home office, I wouldn't have it any other way.
And, like the Good Old Days, Ben and I shopped for various snacks and drinks so that everyone could munch their way through the day.
Good on Ben to rebuild his life and friendships.
May his 23rd year be his best year yet.