My mother has a giant red dictionary that’s tearing down the binding which she reads from. She wears small reading glasses and these days she complains less about how the cataract operation improved her near sightedness but damaged the far sightedness that she was proud of.
For her birthday the other year we got her a thesaurus and now that too sits with the red dictionary on her side of the bed. When they get stuck she flips open one of the books and turns carefully as she searches for the word. She reads out the choices out loud until they both latch onto the same word.
Often they lose the eraser and then they argue who has lost the eraser and how often things are lost and why doesn’t anyone watch where they put anything and often they find it under one of themselves and then they stop arguing and they laugh.
Sometimes my father asks my mother to repeat clues and then he cocks his ear and she repeats it and he still cannot hear. ‘Don’t scream, just say it clearly,’ he says. Eventually she spells out the word he cannot hear or she cannot pronounce and then they are fine.
Sometimes I join them but I must be careful to keep to their system and not to jump ahead to other clues and start shouting answers. They never say it but I know they do not appreciate this.
Later my mother will fill in the original crossword in her neat handwriting with blue ink and she will post it off. Recently she said she wished they would stop giving books and give other things and almost immediately they started giving away other things like perfumes and tog bags and now she is happy. The last time they won the cross word she won gardening books and while she likes gardening she has never looked at those books yet.