Jane Dunn

Half a Century

This New Year’s Day my little girl (who’s never
kissed me, never shouted “Mum”) turned fifty.

An easy birth. The GP said her head looked
rather small. She couldn’t focus, didn’t look at me.
At Guy’s a showman paediatrician, red rose
in his buttonhole, used to fling his gold pince-nez
across the room for registrars to rescue.
You wouldn’t understand, my dear, without
a science degree. I’ll see you in six months.

Other mothers’ milestones passed us by. First steps?
unsteady, at age five. First words? Still waiting.
Tunnel vision, epileptic fits, incontinence.
Red tape at every turn. Aged sixteen, too big
for me to lift, she had to go into a home.
I used to dream she’d talk to me. She always
recognized my voice, would smile. Now,
since her stroke, she simply turns away.

I had a call from Guy’s when she was five:
Good! I’ve caught you in! For my research:
Was this child’s birth a tragedy for you? Or not?