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.