The comic is accurate. Unfortunately.
However, that isn’t really the point – I mainly wanted to post something in memory of my late mother.
But how do you condense a life down into a few words? When we remember someone – even someone close – it’s always fragments of the whole, so I guess fragments will have to do:
My mother wasn’t the easiest person to get to know. She was a bit like one of those sculptures that only make sense when you view it from the right perspective and all the components line up.
She was also incredibly stubborn. She wasn’t fond of any post-80s technology and no evidence demonstrating its usefulness and versatility could persuade her otherwise. Similarly, when it came to food, she knew what she liked and any even slightly unconventional menu items would be dismissed with, “Ugh, that doesn’t sound very nice”. Apparently my mother tasted with her ears.
She had varied interests and was curious about many things. She enjoyed talk radio, but detested many of the presenters. She would only tune in to their shows, so she could loathe them all the more. She liked telling embarrassing stories, but she never embellished on them, which made them all the more powerful and impervious to any challenge to their veracity. She loved puzzles, detective novels and bridge. She wouldn’t have been unhappy if her epitaph was a simple, “Here lies Mother Kyknoord, bridge player”.
She had a habit of adopting disease-ridden stray cats. The rest of us were constantly being pressed into service to run the wretched animals to ground and give them their medication. This is why most of my family is scarred – both physically and psychologically.
Unfortunately, every new addition to the feline cohort didn’t sit too well with the incumbents, so they did what cats do and marked their territory. Now my mother’s standards of cleanliness for the house were pretty high, so this state of affairs did not fly at all. I have this abiding memory of her stopping mid-conversation, wrinkling her nose and whispering, “do you smell that?”. Then she dropped to her hands and knees and crawled around on the floor, sniffing the furniture like a bloodhound as she tried to locate the source of the offending eau de chat.
She loved her garden, so this put her at odds with various species of vermin that also loved her garden, like snails. She didn’t advocate the use of poison, because she was concerned that it would pose a risk to the cats and local birdlife (of course, the cats posed a much more substantial risk to the local birdlife, but that’s another story), so the only truly effective way to control the snails was to collect them manually.
However, this was tedious and labour-intensive, so she concocted a cunning plan involving the acquisition of a pair of ducks that would form the core of her snail death squad. They were quite efficient at the task, but they also destroyed the grass with their corrosive droppings. As a result, the ducks were shipped off and she replaced them with guinea fowl.
Unfortunately, the guinea fowl carved a path of utter destruction through the garden with their miniature dinosaur claws, so when we eventually managed to round them up after many failed attempts (and a lot more scarring), they were replaced with bantams.
It turned out that the bantams thought they were gods or some such and wouldn’t deign to eat the snails unless they were manually collected and presented as an offering, so my mother was basically back to square one – only with a brood of work-shy bantams thrown into the bargain.
These are the things I miss the most about her.
My mother had a strong aversion to sentimentality, so the poem my sister selected for the memorial service seems apposite (If I Should Go by Joyce Grenfell):
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well