A word or two

When I was a kid, back in the 1960s, my mum was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. No one said. I knew something wasn’t right but not what. Fortunately some pretty experimental drugs allowed her to avoid the worst that disease could mean. This poem isn’t accurate in many respects beyond my memory of that time, the knowing and not knowing that children go through.

Parents can be Cruel Bastards


Constant whispering told me, at eight

Something wasn’t right. My brother spread innocent tales

That terrified me. Then mum disappeared

Like she’d gone shopping for a week. No one said.

Like when uncle went to prison that time.

She used sticks as if testing the ground

Checking it was solid. And overnight

Her jam cupboard grew a padlock and smelt ill;

And the chemist became Colin rather than Mr Green

Who smiled at me and shook his head after mum.

At Christmas my uncle unwrapped my fears

When he hugged mum and said he was pleased

They’d found a cure and no one cried and all smiled

And I knew for sure my brother was a liar.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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22 Responses to A word or two

  1. colinandray says:

    Such an interesting, and so true, perspective. Didn’t somebody once say that what is not said, is so often much worse than what could have been said?


  2. Dylan Hearn says:

    I really enjoyed this, Geoff, and you have such a way with last lines. Great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It must have been really tough for you being so young and not understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Of course my parents underplayed it all so there was a lot of confusion around. On the one hand nothing to worry about on the other you must not overtire your mother.


  4. willowdot21 says:

    Bloody brothers can be cruel!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anabel Marsh says:

    Your bafflement comes across clearly. Childhood was so frustrating when no-one explained anything, leaving a vacuum for worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It used to be thought the right thing to do and it just made for generations of confused kids!

    My father died suddenly and no one explained anything. We heard everything in the night, but saw nothing. The next day we were kept in another room while his body was taken to the ambulance. I peeked out a window and saw it happening, then the curtain was pulled across and I was hustled away and made to play ‘pat-a-cake’ or some such thing. I was eight years old.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Yes the cruelty of not explaining. When our elderly cat was diagnosed as likely to due within the day and the kids were about 4 and 7 we concluded they should know to say goodbye rather than not have That chance. It wa right and after that we never hid anything.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      Oh Pauline. I feel so sad for you. What cruelty it is to not be told. How can you come to any acceptance or express any grief if you do not know? I hope the pain has eased over the years, though i’m sure it will never be erased.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Charli Mills says:

    As an adult reflecting back, we see all the hidden hopes and fears in those whispers and myths.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. merrildsmith says:

    I must have been scary for you not knowing what was really happening. Wonderful poem. I especially liked the part about the chemist becoming Colin and “At Christmas my uncle unwrapped my fears”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Norah says:

    What a perfect poem. It expresses very clearly the uncertainty and fear that comes with knowing something is wrong, but not knowing what. Often the fear of what the unknown may be is greater than what it actually is. With knowledge comes the opportunity of dealing with whatever it is. You did well telling your children about your dog. It is important to not hide the truth. I can remember a couple of times in my life when I had been “shielded”, but the not knowing and the inability to deal with the situation as it occurred only made it worse. I think ignorance does nobody any favours.


  10. I was told too much and it has haunted me my whole life. There’s no straight answer to life’s unpleasantnesses, I suppose.
    Glad your mum seemed to cope well and remained a kind of tour de force, by the sound of things!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. rogershipp says:

    What classic lines from the heart of a kid!


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