27 June, the day after her birthday

Today would have been my mother’s birthday. The photo was taken at my 60th birthday party which I celebrated in the garden of my friend’s caravan – the one I was to inherit just three years later.

The poem describes a time when my mother was still living independently. As I lived in England, the opportunities to help were limited. I happened to be over in the Netherlands.

27 June, the day after her birthday

I’d left a note on her bedside table
Don’t eat, don’t drink when you wake up.
We walk arm in arm, it’s warm already.
The doctor lives two houses down.
A blue Scandinavian cotton dress,
chunky necklace and earrings to match.
My mother does not look eighty-one.

That blood test done, we sit and face him.
Slightly raised, but no need to worry.
How are you keeping he asks my mother
who smiles, puts on her usual pose, I’m fine,
while I shake my head silently.

She’s leafing through her diary.
It says, Doctor, 8 o’clock.
We’ve been, now it’s time for coffee.
I want to go upstairs to pack.
Before you go, just one question
The matt-green door frame cuts the scene.
I wave, but she frowns at her diary.

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