When my son got his degree I pulled my phone out of my pocket to phone my mum and tell her. I just knew she would burst with pride. But she had died a month earlier. The feeling was acute. So I wrote this poem. The picture is of my mum in the 60s, enjoying a day on the beach with us all.
Must phone ma! He got a 2.1!
I’m so happy for my son!
Where’s my phone – I’ll tell her now –
She’s gone away. I don’t know how.
I’ll just call in, and say hello
A cup of tea, and then I’ll go
She’ll have a bitch about Cherie Blair
Oh. No, she won’t. Ma’s not there.
Delete the number from the phone
Remember, there is no-one home
Find someone else to tell things to
But after Ma, please tell me who.
She drove me nuts, banged on and on
We rolled our eyes and went along
With all the rubbish that she said
And all the letters that she read
To us, with pride – she’d written to
Prime Ministers, and gawd knows who
Complaining about this and that
The letters thudded on the mat.
She took them all on, and quite right
These people need to see the light!
Who better to tell them what’s what
Than Mumsee – she’d get on and jot
Things down. But now there is no chat
No views expressed, no ‘that is that’
No tea and cake, no Sunday roast
No fights to fight, nothing to post.
No mum to tell when things go well
No ma to ask when life is hell
No endless conversations on
The telephone – Mumsee has gone.
Someone told me she will know
When things are good, when we get low
But I can’t hear her voice, her news
I can’t get bored with all her views
Long distance now – I’m here, she’s there
I miss her getting in my hair
I miss her going on about
Nothing at all, and not a doubt
In her own mind that she was right
I miss the grueling, silent fight
Within – don’t lose your temper, Jen!
Just let her say it – just give in.
Mumsee – you really were a pain
You aired your views, again and again
You stomped around sorting things out
You really were an awkward trout.
And that’s the truth, but here I sit
With sadness filling every bit
Of me – a rock, a constant place
Familiar smell, familiar face
The smell of cauliflower and lamb
The loud opinions you would ram
Down all our throats, with tea and cake
I miss you Ma, for goodness sake.
You loved us all, we know that now
We know the whys, and we know how
You planned for us, you made things right
So we could cope always, in spite
Of loss and pain and aching heads
Of chasing round hospital beds
Of watching life so stripped away
From you – a bit less there each day.
It’s quiet now. Nothing to do
Except sit here and think of you.
No drama now, no running round
Nothing to see, and not a sound
You’re gone. Like that. Just not here now.
I need to talk. I don’t know how.
Don’t understand. Can’t work it out.
Life, death and stuff, what’s it about?
Long distance now – I’ll be in touch
Oh, Ma, I miss you very much.