At this time of remembrance I remember my beloved mother. She was a remarkably kind, beautiful, funny, indomitable and intelligent woman, and she was the reason I am a writer. Among the many stories she read to me at bedtime was The Flying Bike, which I’d never forget and which I passed down to my children too. She was a writer who encouraged me to write, a sharer who shared the joy of words and the joy of playing with them. Cryptic crosswords came easily to her and she taught me how to break their code and even how to create and compile my own puzzles, many of which I’ve published. I want to tell her that, but I can’t because she’s dead. I want to tell her the good news that my book is going to be published next year, but I can’t. They’ll be only words but it pains me that they’ll never be read by her.
Many Christmases ago when I was seven she bought me Scrabble, which we’d play almost every night until I became a man and left the family home.
Thirty years later, her bed was brought downstairs of her little cottage. She hadn’t long left, but in one of her more lucid moments between the highs of morphine she wanted to play one last game – me, her and my son. So I took out the box, dusted off the board and rested it on the bed.
When the board was becoming bloated and we were down to our last few tiles, my mother began to tire. I’d given her another dose of morphine and she was slipping away from pain at last, yet somehow found the strength to put down her final word and score a fifty-point bonus.
It was fitting that she recorded a memorable victory. The fact that the word was QYPZJOCK didn’t seem to matter.