My mother, Joyce, grew up singing and tap dancing, something that not many people know. She studied piano and voice in her youth, entered a university music program, and emerged a classically trained soprano, in near-constant demand for concerts and recitals. She made a couple of badly pressed records, toured the southern states and performed a single show in New York City, all by the time she was 22.
In 1947, hard on the heels of that tour, the Metropolitan Opera came calling. Not surprisingly, my mother turned down the audition, stayed home in far away New Brunswick, Canada and married my father. She was always a pragmatist.
Like most postwar brides, she took matrimony seriously. My mother cooked and kept house, but she was also true to herself. Mom continued to sing. And sing. And sing. She also acted in musicals (Nancy in “Oliver,” Kate in “Kiss Me Kate”), joined the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, ran an interview show for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, co-founded a community newspaper with my father, played the organ for all manner of churches, conducted a choir for 25 years — and daily, religiously, solved crosswords.
Throughout my childhood, Mom tore the crossword pages from the morning and afternoon newspapers that arrived at our house. Articles lost their beginnings and ends, and entire sections fell apart. Crossword pages took over the house. Most ended up strewn beside the living room couch, alongside a china mug stained brown by coffee and tea.
My mother was a late-afternoon and late-night solver. She liked to camp out on the couch as dinner warmed up and tackle that day’s puzzles. Mom preferred to solve undisturbed by family; choral music was her company of choice. In the evenings, my parents and I gathered around our new color television. My mother would balance a cup of coffee on a tray and complete the crosswords on her lap, barely glancing at the TV.
I couldn’t have cared less about crosswords until my midteens, when Mom began soliciting my advice on popular culture clues. My mother, steeped in music theory and the classical repertoire, claimed to have lost touch with current trends after Elvis. I realize now that Mom was quite capable of deciphering the answers on her own. Crosswords were simply her attempt to connect with her rebellious teenage son.
Years later, crossword clues on computer terminology left my mother baffled. This was before the internet, and technology clues were invitations to phone me in Toronto or in Halifax. My mother would ring up and plead, “What in God’s name is ‘Microsoft suite’?” I would try to explain, and secretly bless crosswords for giving my mother an excuse to call.
I was hooked on crosswords by the time I left home, thanks to Mom. On summer visits, my mother and I would once again join forces at the family cottage. Somehow, crosswords became a natural, unforced way to re-establish our relationship and pick up where we’d left off.
During those summers, I would wander up the lane early in the morning to collect the newspaper. The rest of the day was fair game for the crossword — in between meals and swims and card games and berry-picking and reading and long, long walks. The news was secondary. We had a radio and knew what was going on. The crossword, on the other hand, was always different and fresh, and kept the world at bay.
At 5 p.m. or so, my mother would quietly plop some potato chips in a bowl, pour herself a tiny crystal glass of sherry, and repair to the porch, where we would tie up our crossword loose ends. The sun would drop slowly across the lake, and the world would seem just about right.
At the cottage, my mother and I polished off the Monday and Tuesday crosswords by noon. We weren’t lightning-fast solvers; Fridays and Saturdays were generally all-day affairs. We needed another challenge, so I began going to town to pick up the Globe and Mail, which always carried a cryptic crossword. Cryptics were new to my mother, and in no time she was hooked. I won’t soon forget those eureka moments when my mother and I would look at each other and shout, “That’s it!”
Every cryptic took us days to complete, much to the annoyance of my wife. She disliked crosswords in general, but reserved a special disdain for cryptics. Inevitably, at some crisis point in every cryptic, my mother and I would be gnashing our teeth. My wife, as lateral a thinker as ever walked, would blurt out some nonsensical answer. Mom and I would exchange “Oh, my God, she’s right!” looks, then pretend it was all a fluke. Not so my wife, who insisted that her offhand solutions reaffirmed the absurdity of all puzzles.
Those were the halcyon days. Eventually, cottage upkeep became too much. On her own one September, Mom faltered in the icy water. She was rescued by a fellow cottager. After she was relegated to home, crosswords helped keep my mother afloat. I wanted my mother to be well, but discarded puzzles told another tale. Early one morning, I found her slumped over breakfast with a crossword by her side, totally incoherent.
As it turned out, my mother had been suffering from a sneaky case of dementia. It had fooled us all. In her new assisted living apartment, the signs became more and more clear. The radio, one of my mother’s trademark habits, fell silent. Mom ignored the mysterious television remote, and fought unsuccessfully to navigate the bathroom’s bewildering array of switches.
Crosswords remained the route back to Mom’s real self. I extended her newspaper subscription. My mother barely glanced at the headlines and, yes, ripped out the crosswords. Muscle memory seemed to have taken over. Mom kept the crosswords in unruly stacks scattered around her apartment, an answer or two in each. One day, I tried to tidy up and recycle her puzzles, and my mother had the first and only hissy fit of her life.
Finally, I arrived one morning to find two caregivers hovering beside my mother’s bed. My mother was sprawled on the bedroom floor. Over the next long weeks, a familiar scenario played itself out: broken hip, surgery, failed rehab, palliative care, and a long, slow decline until my mother died at 5:19 a.m. on a cold March morning.
A few days earlier, quite disoriented, my mother had glanced sideways at her bedside table. “I keep expecting to see a crossword there,” she said, as clear as a bell. Even in the midst of her dementia — a puzzle that she couldn’t quite figure out — my mother was still looking for answers.
Doug Watling is a semiretired writer, sommelier and educator. He lives in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Illustration by Alice Mollon.B:
九龙心水8112三码中【狼】【啸】【等】【很】【多】【妖】【兽】，【在】【进】【阶】【成】【为】【妖】【兽】【后】，【根】【本】【就】【没】【有】【时】【间】【去】【巩】【固】，【直】【接】【就】【被】【昆】【仑】【妖】【兽】【派】【去】【和】【人】【类】【战】【斗】。 【那】【时】【别】【说】【是】【保】【证】【自】【己】【不】【受】【伤】【了】，【就】【连】【保】【证】【自】【己】【能】【活】【下】【来】【就】【很】【困】【难】。 “【可】【恨】【的】【昆】【仑】【妖】【兽】，【它】【们】【肯】【定】【也】【知】【道】【这】【一】【点】，【但】【它】【们】【还】【是】【让】【我】【们】【去】【和】【人】【类】【战】【斗】，【摆】【明】【了】【就】【从】【来】【没】【有】【把】【我】【们】【放】【在】【眼】【中】。” 【进】【阶】【成】【为】【妖】【兽】
“【不】【如】【我】【们】【给】【这】【些】【峰】【头】【都】【起】【个】【名】【字】【吧】？”【瑶】【时】【见】【珈】【染】【开】【始】【选】【峰】【主】【了】，【见】【反】【正】【离】【傀】【儡】【人】【做】【好】【饭】【还】【有】【一】【段】【时】【间】，【索】【性】【提】【议】【道】。 【香】【宁】【山】【一】【共】【大】【大】【小】【小】【有】【十】【几】【个】【山】【峰】，【不】【过】【这】【些】【山】【峰】【的】【分】【布】【看】【似】【散】【乱】，【但】【是】【只】【要】【以】【凌】【天】【峰】【为】【中】【心】【点】【再】【去】【观】【察】，【就】【可】【以】【发】【现】【这】【些】【山】【峰】【是】【逐】【层】【围】【绕】【着】【这】【个】【主】【峰】【的】。 【当】【中】【里】【一】【层】【围】【绕】【着】【凌】【天】【峰】【的】
【林】【诺】【迅】【速】【的】【翻】【看】【了】【一】【下】【那】【些】【试】【卷】，【很】【快】【就】【发】【现】，【是】【某】【某】【号】【同】【学】，【没】【有】【写】【上】【名】【字】。 【找】【出】【成】【绩】【单】【一】【瞧】，【林】【诺】【才】【知】【道】，【某】【某】【号】【同】【学】，【就】【是】【白】【瑾】【汐】。 【林】【诺】【眼】【底】【掠】【过】【一】【丝】【复】【杂】【的】【色】【彩】，【拿】【着】【钢】【笔】，【模】【仿】【着】【白】【瑾】【汐】【的】【字】【迹】，【给】【她】【把】【学】【号】【和】【名】【字】【写】【了】【上】【去】。 【随】【后】【抱】【着】【一】【叠】【试】【卷】，【迅】【速】【走】【出】【了】【教】【室】，【交】【试】【卷】【去】【了】。 【白】【瑾】【汐】九龙心水8112三码中【眼】【见】【静】【雪】【绝】【色】【俏】【脸】【上】【还】【有】【疑】【虑】，【玄】【麟】【便】【将】【身】【上】【两】【人】【熟】【悉】【那】【股】【妖】【力】【略】【加】【施】【展】，【才】【让】【静】【雪】【露】【出】【恍】【然】【之】【色】。 【这】【股】【妖】【力】，【她】【也】【曾】【见】【过】，【正】【是】【玄】【麟】【所】【独】【有】，【其】【他】【人】【要】【模】【仿】【也】【模】【仿】【不】【来】。 【于】【是】，【她】【俏】【脸】【便】【稍】【显】【和】【缓】。 【楚】【天】【见】【她】【脸】【色】【由】【阴】【转】【晴】，【心】【下】【顿】【时】【一】【松】，【像】【阴】【天】【将】【头】【浮】【在】【水】【面】【上】【的】【鱼】【儿】【一】【般】，【仰】【脸】【大】【口】【喘】【息】，【那】【种】【窒】
【娄】【敬】【抬】【眼】【望】【向】【刘】【邦】，【他】【现】【在】【还】【不】【是】【张】【政】【的】【核】【心】【成】【员】，【所】【提】【建】【议】【的】【份】【量】【自】【然】【很】【轻】。 “【行】【军】【打】【仗】【还】【是】【谨】【慎】【为】【好】。”【刘】【邦】【委】【婉】【的】【说】【道】。 “【您】【尽】【可】【放】【心】，【这】【次】【我】【们】【不】【但】【有】【装】【备】【了】【新】【式】【马】【鞍】【马】【镫】【的】【骑】【兵】，【而】【且】【还】【有】【大】【量】【的】【战】【车】，【保】【准】【会】【杀】【的】【匈】【奴】【人】【片】【甲】【不】【留】。”【张】【政】【信】【心】【十】【足】，【刘】【邦】【也】【不】【好】【再】【说】【什】【么】【了】。 【第】【二】【天】【一】【早】【大】