A friend of mine liked this photo on Facebook today.  I’m not sure who deserves credit for it, but it started me thinking about something.




The phrase on it, “Here’s to all my girlfriends who will help me cause trouble in the nursing home” made me think about my mom’s time in assisted living, when she was still mobile.  Her mind was already not the same, poisoned by the cancer or dementia, I don’t know which.  This particular visit was the first time I think she didn’t know who I was.   My cousin Jennifer was with me. Mom didn’t know either of us, never said either of our names, or recognized I was her daughter; Jennifer, her niece. But she knew we were friends, that we were safe, that we meant her no harm.

Earlier in the week, Mom had pulled the fire alarm in the Assisted Living facility. Naturally, this is frowned upon, for a number of valid reasons. It was also completely out of character for my mother. So when Jennifer and I arrived to visit that Sunday, it made sense that all the fire alarms were covered with white paper, trying to distract my mother so she wouldn’t pull them again.

Except she really wanted to.  As we walked around with mom, she kept trying to get close enough to pull the alarm.  We constantly had to distract her.  We physically had to stand between her and the alarms.  What I remember most about it was this mischievous glint in my mother’s eyes.  Like someone who is good-naturedly trying to get away with something they know they shouldn’t.

It made me wonder about my mother as a child, before her father died when she was thirteen; Before her mother was left to raise ten children on her own, the youngest only just over a year old.  Before she married, before she became a parent herself. Before she was a Responsible Adult in the Garden Club, with  Golf outings  and PTA meetings on the calendar.

Don’t get me wrong, she had a great sense of humor.  But until that day, I never saw that mischievous side of my mother. This glimpse of who she may have been when she was younger, playing with her siblings.  I don’t know that it was even a real glimpse of her. Cancer and dementia are insidious things, changing and warping people. But I like to think that the parts of my mother I saw during this time were pieces of her.

And I hope that when my girlfriends and I are in the retirement home together, we have a gleam of fun in our eyes, and that we are causing (harmless) trouble.