Happy Birthday Mammy
i know the age as one of us has to get the date of birth right.
i know already you’ll sing with us and look around
wondering whose birthday it is
and the eyes
the eyes show how it feels
and the emptiness
less and less life in them now.
but i remember mam
so many wee memories.
you were so kind, warm and motherly
modest, strong, wise, talented.
assumed by many!
a lot of things mammy
we came home from school to warm snack.
a mammy waiting for us?
the fire slacked at night so we’d have heat in the morning
a warm breakfast
I didn’t appreciate it enough.
there were the annual trips at end of summer
the hiding from veggie
always bringing dad his dinner on his knee
an irish woman
you being sick for years
and on planned hospital days filling the freezer so we were all sorted.
granny’s club book.
the west end Bundoran days
all firmly painted in my mind.
playing duets with you
i still remember the rhapsody
and the Baxter family coming in for a wee concert
we didn’t enjoy them enough
that were always parts of playing draughts
and playing table tennis
you always wanted to win
but got a migraine
it took me years to understand those headaches
sat back when dad and friends talked school
did love your shopping with aunty Janet
but twice i remember those few words.
few but very important.
when you passed responsibility for my depression to me and refused to join with the community nurse and make any choices
that was when i knew you had a very important
very wise voice.
and on my wedding day
after the terrible past i had a few years before
you had seemed to stand back
i’m a mam now
and i know that is so so hard to do
but you seemed in my child’s eyes to stand off
you were letting ME decide
then on the morning you simply said
are you sure you’re happy?
then i knew you had been there behind me throughout the bad times.
i didn’t realise that enough
you had so little childhood
teenaged wages used so young to raise your siblings
you rose to that mam
i don’t think so.
not in a bad way
at times i wanted you to go out
to dress up and treat yourself
go to a dinner-dance
i remember one year you did
you looked beautiful
but you weren’t odd
you chose to stay in
not a lot different to what i do now!
i just wanted better for you mam
but you decided what you wanted yourself!
i stupidly didn’t realise that!
you buried three children
how did you manage
get on with it
and never refer to it.
only when i had children did we talk about it
about the snowdrops
the fact you never were given the choices on funerals
that’s not how it was done.
how did you go on?
i really don’t understand the strength you must have had.
you were so strong
you had your crosses mam
we know what they were
you dealt with tears and then silence
but you buried the pain
so i would never add to them mam.
until you became ill.
you chose a good man
daddy did all he promised you and more
he has loved you
cared for you
and allowed you to keep that quiet dignity
as you got lost
lost in the fragments of memories
until they disappeared.
but i have them mam
i will keep them
i will rely on them
and treasure them
for all the years i have
Happy Birthday mammy
i love you
i hope in there
wherever you are
you know that