It isn't much of one. I know you won't read it, but I wanted to express just how much I love you even after all these years. Perhaps particularly after the last twenty-two.
On your gravestone it is written "I thank God in every remembrance of you" (Philippians 1.3) And that is true. It is true for Dad, who chose it, and for me in my daily life. You were the best mum I could have ever asked for and I just hope and pray that some of that is being passed on to my children.
Your grandchildren. Can you believe that? They are gorgeous, by the way. I know - you never even met my husband, so it must be hard for you to have imagined grandchildren. I try so hard to bring them up in a way you would be proud. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes all I want to do is scream. Mostly I want to give you a ring and find out what I'm supposed to do.
I have to assume I was nothing like my son. I always went to bed on time? I never complained about the food on my plate? I loved music practice, my piano teacher? I always tidied my room?
Everyone says my daughter is just a 'mini-me'. Hmmm. I think that is based on blonde hair and blue eyes. Surely I wasn't so stroppy and stubborn? So dippy? So confused by numbers? I had taken to calling her Jemima Puddleduck (I remember that was what you called me) then the other day I actually read Beatrix Potter's story - it wasn't all that flattering!
How did you cope with my sister and I arguing all the time? How did you restrain us from watching TV all day? How on earth did you explain the facts of life to us? (My son asked the other day. It was torture. What do you tell an eight-year-old boy?)
Your mum, Great-Granny (as we now all call her) is still going strong. The other week, when we visited, she had your wedding photos out. My daughter didn't recognise Dad in them at all, even though he was sitting in the same room. They both giggled about that.
My life has taken more twists and turns than I could possibly have imagined when we last spoke. I'm guessing teenagers have some rather narrow, self-centred views on life. What can I tell you? I have a degree in Maths and Psychology (I know, you wanted me to do languages, but it seems to have worked out okay). I've married a doctor (he's fantastic, by the way). I lived in Africa for four years (the French would have been useful here, but on the other hand the Maths got me the job). I'm writing a book. I'm living on the Wrong Side of the Pennines.
I remember saying after you'd died how I would miss you as a friend more than as a mother. Whilst at school, I'd really have liked it if you could have prepared dinner for us every night. Whilst at university, I'd really have liked it if I could have brought my washing home to you. When living in Zambia, I'd really have liked it if you could have sent little food parcels.
But it is your friendship I miss most. Undoubtedly.
So, mum, Happy Birthday. I'll always miss you, but I know you are in a better place. One day we'll meet up again.
Until then, I send my love,