Mrs Bessie Pilkington could be blunt. She was a great-grandmother now, twenty-eight times over. Raised in an era when women weren’t expected to use their intelligence, she was spending her last years playing solitaire and listening to the radio. If born these days, she would have become a brain surgeon or a nuclear physicist. Back in her day, she became a nurse until marriage.
There was one thing she had little time for, and that was “liberal morality”. Why, she would ask, can’t we be like cows and go to the bull once a year when we come on heat? Why all this sexual rigmarole? And proper decorum! She would answer the phone, not with a “Hi, Bessie here”, but with a “Good afternoon. Mrs Pilkington speaking.”
As for her children’s spouses calling her “Mom”; that was a form of address they had to earn before they could use. Yet she was delightful company. Witty. Funny. So full of life, and interests, and observations.
A regret she had was the break down of the marriage of one of her sons. Reuben had a new partner, Cheryl, whom Bessie had never met. One day, Reuben and Cheryl knocked on the door downstairs.
“I suppose I must be gracious,” thought Bessie, rising from her armchair and descending the stairs. “I shall charm her with as much courtesy as I can muster.”
But Cheryl made a fatal error. “Hi, Mom,” she said.
“Excuse me,” said Mrs Bessie Pilkington, shaking Cheryl’s hand. “I have to dash upstairs. I’m halfway through a game of patience.”