Anyways, I mentioned to you in this post that I went to a funeral the other day and took my Mum. Funerals are sad and this one was no exception. Yet there's some joy to be found within the intense sorrow for so many. And a bit of joy is in seeing people you haven't seen for eons. It was good to see some cousins whom I hadn't seen for years and it was good, in a very debatable way, to spend a whole day with my Mum.
It's rarer than a down escalator in Odel, this me spending a whole day with my Mum business, so I approached it with what I can only accurately describe as optimistic trepidation.
I faced a two hour drive each way to Cambridge where it was happening and there were to be no kids, no Grandchildren, no bros and no my Dad. I figured that it could be nice, we might talk about things that we never really get a chance to talk about, but at any stage things could go wrong, so very wrong, and I had to be ready at all times, Sri Lankan mothers being what they are.
I suited and booted myself, loaded the car with Jazz CDs and presented myself at the olds' place in the morning. My Dad, as Sri Lankan Dads do, mooched around in his sarong eating breakfast and offering me bites and bits of everything on the table. His continued offering suggested he thought I was lying when I said that I'd just had breakfast, or that I'd suddenly gone all bashful in my parents' house and not just take any food I wanted if the need hit me.
His wife, a.k.a my Mum, was upstairs getting ready so we chatted, in as much as fathers and sons do, for a while. I joked that he had a nice "day off", he replied with a smirk, saying that one man's loss is another one's gain. We laughed. Then the Mother descended, we both paid her the required amount of compliments about how nice she looked, my Dad argued with me about whether I should take the M10 or M11, my Mum had a ten minute argument with herself about whether she should wear a coat or a cardigan and off we went.
The journey was surprisingly relaxed, though I was far from it.
We She chatted about all sorts of things, we listened to the CDs and I behaved myself pretty well.
The church service was as nice as these things ever can be and we moved on from there to the burial, then the repast at a local hotel. On route I witnessed my Mum having an argument with a German lady. You might wonder what's unusual about that. The answer is that this particular German lady was the one whose voice is used in the satnav in my car. I swear to you, they were having quite a heated row and I chose to keep quiet as they battled it out.
My new favourite Fraulein ignored my Mum and just continued to say what she wanted to say. A phrase about medicine, taste of her own, that sort of thing, flitted through my mind but after a while Germany won and we realised that Fraulein BMW Satnav, to give her her full name, had been right all along. I laughed loudly. In my head.
The repast (a new word for me, hence my extensive use of it) came. We chatted with people and the close relatives of my Aunt did their best to deal with the bittersweetness of seeing people who they hadn't seen for years at such a low occasion.
I remained relaxed but in a guarded way. I knew that she (the mother) could pounce at any moment and I had to be ready, like a bat out of Belgium.
Then. It. Happened.
We were chatting with a chap and I asked what he was doing with himself these days. His reply was that he was involved with the department of health, specifically in policy making for IVF.
You may recall that my Mum is a Doctor, as are 113% of all Sri Lankans anyhow. I made a brief attempt to steer the conversation away from this shallowness but it was in all vain. Before I knew it I found myself pretending to be engrossed in talk of IVF in Sri Lanka, department of health policy and whatnot. I uttered a few ums and aahs at the right moments and, even if I say it myself, did a pretty fine job.
Just as I thought I'd come up with a way of steering the chat towards music, using the old line about those women who can blow a ping pong ball and a decent tune out of their nether regions, my Mum turned to the fellow, pointed at me and said:
"Well there's no use talking to him about IVF, he doesn't even know what it stands for."
It was a good thing that I'd been in "be prepared for her to pounce" mode for the past six hours. A lesser man would have stumbled, maybe losing his cool for a couple of seconds. I was like a duck, one of those swimming ones, an iceberg I think they're called.
You see, over years I've learned the the worst thing to do, when confronted by a Sri Lankan mother in full battle cry, is to engage. That's what they want. The rights, the wrongs and the grey areas matter not one iota, the crucial thing is to avoid entering their arena.
My head, the legs of the Iceberg duck, was going into overdrive while my exterior, the bit above the water, was calm and cool, like a cucumber, an Iceberg lettuce duck cucumber perhaps.
Even if I was to engage, to protect my reputation, I was slightly unsure what IVF stands for, on which she had a point. I knew about "inter", I knew about "fertilisation" but that "V"? I was pretty sure it was for "vaginal" but there was a nagging doubt. They smell the fear, these mothers.
So, all things considered, I chose the only other option. My mind is known for its speed in situations like this and I responded in a mere twenty, perhaps thirty seconds.
I pursed my lips and made that slight hissing sound, the one that goes "pffft", and laughed a little. The fellow chuckled a bit too, but I reckon he knew my quandary and was being kind. He did know I was a drummer after all.
Fortunately the matriarch didn't choose option A as a response, the one where she pushes it and asks me what IVF does stand for. I exited the chat quickly, heading for the asparagus sandwiches as if I had a peculiar fetish for the smell of asparagus pee or something.
Some hours later, after we'd done the Lankan goodbye thing as well as the journey, I dropped her home, handed her over to my Dad, then hurried back to RD Towers to google IVF and find out the answer. Yes, yes, I know I was wrong about the vagina thing now. But there was no need for her to try to show me up like that.