(From the book)
For most of her adult life, my mother was a light smoker. This became a problem when she moved into ‘The Retreat / Affordable Senior Assisted Living’ in Hartford. Though they have a very well-tended outdoor seating area for smokers and though she swore she wouldn’t smoke in her apartment, she eventually began to sneak one or two cigarettes up there (morning with coffee and just before bed), especially in the cold weather.
I was unaware of this situation until one day I came to visit earlier than usual. Her window was wide open and when I used the bathroom, there was white powder all over the bathroom floor.
Me – Mom, why is there powder on the floor?
Mom – It fell out of the closet and spilled.
Me – That’s a lot of powder.
Mom – Want some coffee?
Me (catching on) – Why does it smell a bit like a cigarette?
Mom – Toast?
Me – MOM, you swore you wouldn’t smoke up here!!
Mom (hand on cocked hip, probably looking like me at 14) – You can’t tell me what to do! I’m the mother, you know.
What she’d do is open the window, roll a towel under the door and smoke, exhaling up at the fan. Then she would wave the powder container over her head and around the room, figuring the smoke would get “lost” within the shower of powder.
Over time, she was given several warnings by The Retreat’s amazing staff, but finally my phone rang. It was my son, Kevin.
Kevin – What’s wrong with Nonie?
Me – Why?
Kevin – She just called and wants me to rent a truck to come get her furniture and food.
Me – What??
Kevin – She said she’d be waiting by the curb with some boxes. Says I’ll have to help her with the couch. She’s been kicked out. I’m supposed to come quick!
Mom was an overwhelming safety hazard and I don’t blame the administration for finally making the decision they made. It’s too bad, since it was a very nice (and appropriate for her at the time) community. When I arrived there about an hour after my son’s call, she was all dressed and ready to go … and surprised to see me.
Me – Where’re you going?
Mom – Oh, Kevin called and we’re going out. Want some coffee?
Me – You are such a liar!
Mom – Am not!
I was just ready to say “Are so” and stopped myself, took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I’ll have some coffee.”
Much later, I sat in my car and cried. I knew our family had reached another difficult turning point and had no idea how it would be handled.
And if you liked last week’s post, please go back to it and read the comments from each of my brothers.