January 6th 1985
'Today would have been the birthday of Clara, my aunt and guardian who died four or five years ago, aged mid seventies.
In life Clara (and Walter her husband) gave me a home, love and affection. In death Clara unknowingly gave me an amusing if unexpected bonus. Towards the end of her life Clara became somewhat eccentric concerning money matters. Whilst little or no food could be found in the house (Clara lived alone in a small cottage) it was obvious that money was accumulating due to Clara's frugal habits. No amount of pressure could persuade Clara to either buy necessary food or bank excess money. (Food therefore tended to be provided by others.) Eventually, sadly, due to self neglect and a lack of a will to live, Clara died.
Now I would suggest that it would not have been unreasonable to expect that a little of Clara's money might have found its way in my direction. (A materialistic consideration but nevertheless realistic in this day and age.) I was, after all the second 'almost' adopted son for over ten years. Alas, it was not to be! Number one son (real not imaginary son) received the money. And the tea service, the clocks, the brasses, the linen, the electrical goods, contents of garden shed, pots, pans and sundry paraphernalia. Which accounted for everything, except Rusty. Rusty being a decrepit, sixteen year old, rather deaf, medium sized poodle with an extremely enlarged left knacker. (testicle to the more refined of you out there.) I, (or rather we, my wife, my children were included) 'inherited' Rusty, the alternative being an end of indecent haste after years of companionship to a lonely, often confused old woman.
Rusty's condition was, to say the least, unfortunate due to neglect by ignorance rather than malice. To restore Rusty to something resembling a dog, never mind a poodle was no mean feat. Cutting through matted fur was physically difficult yet needing an almost delicate touch. Where ears really began was difficult to ascertain. Eyes, faded with age and induced darkness blinked somewhat mechanically as fur was sheared almost sheep like. Most amazingly a dog that had for many years been almost muddy in colour was discovered to be nearer a light grey in reality. As Rusty shed his coat, so too the years seemed to be lifted from him. A young sprightly dog emerged, over the next four years, admittedly with increasing knacker, but a young at heart dog, full of life and vigour nevertheless.'
The happiness one old dog brought to another old dog was truly immeasurable. We had four happy years together, Rusty, the children, my wife and I.
My cousin, the number one son was not so lucky. His marriage broke up, and he never lived long enough to achieve the contentment old age can sometimes bring us. I never felt he captured the happiness he too sought. Life is indeed strange at times.