The Ghost and Mrs. S.

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Spirit edition

Since moving my mother to the nursing home, my daughter and I have come to the agreement that rather than constantly contradicting my mother when she says things that are a little loopy, we’ll just play along with her. 

Really, what did it matter if she got the two of us mixed up, or if she told my daughter that she needed some bread and milk from the store?  It’s a lot easier on all of us just to say something agreeable and let it go at that. 

Besides, she usually forgets what she was talking about in a few minutes anyway, so trying to set her straight on the fact that my grandkids aren’t my kids is just an exercise in futility.  By the time we get the matter somewhat settled, it’s disappeared like a will o’ the wisp into the air.

Speaking of will o’ the wisps…

Today I went by to see how she was doing and was pleased to see they’d gotten the humongous recliner in her room operational.  It’s controlled electronically by a remote and the other day they hadn’t quite figured out how to get it working. 

Today my mother was well ensconced in it in front of the TV watching the Travel Channel’s show “Bizarre Food;” a show about something called “stinky tofu.” 

Don’t ask.

As I went about putting away her laundry, my mother looked up brightly and said, “Guess who came by to see me today!”

When I asked who (thinking it might have been my daughter and her kids), she said, “Honore.”

Okayyy….playing along, I said, “What did she have to say?”

Mom kind of rambled on about her doing something with her group of friends…or something.  The plot line kind of veered here and there and was generally unfollowable.  So I just said, “That was nice that she came to see you” and dropped the subject.

Honore was my mother’s best friend from childhood.  They pretty much grew up together and remained lifelong friends.  I remember my mother telling me funny stories about Honore’s pug dog, Cherry Boots.  They used to paint the dog’s toenails red and it seems it had a problem with frequent flatulence. 

“Oh, Cherry Boots!” became somewhat of a catch phrase in my family whenever anyone was a little…um…gassy.

Honore came from a wealthy family, whereas my mother did not.  The Depression slammed my mother’s family hard (my grandfather’s quitting his job as a railroad conductor just before the 1929 stock market crash didn’t help either) but Honore’s family came out unscathed.

I remember my mother telling me that she (my mother) had good enough grades to go on to college, but that was out of the question.  Honore, on the other hand, wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, as the story goes, but she got to attend USC because her parents had the dough to get her accepted. 

That was the time-honored story but, really, my mother’s version of things has never been absolutely reliable and often has a way of getting torqued around to where she comes out the aggrieved party who’s vindicated in the end.

Be that as it may, the two of them remained friends and in contact with each other all through their lives—up until a couple of years ago when Honore passed away in a nursing home in California.  She had no children, but had befriended a nice lesbian couple who took care of her until she had to move to the swanky (according to my mother) care facility.

My mother has forgotten that many of her old friends have died. 

One was the mother of a childhood friend of mine, and when my mother casually mentioned last year (before her fall and subsequent move from her home) that she hadn’t heard from Irene for awhile, I foolishly reminded her that Irene had passed away several years before Dad. 

She looked up from the lunch we were sharing and said, in a bewildered tone, “I didn’t know that.” 

I immediately felt bad that I’d told her about Irene’s death.  There wasn’t any reason to set her straight about it.  Now I know better.  I just let her go on about Honore, knowing that, for the moment at least, she felt good that an old friend had come by for a visit.

And, who knows?  Maybe she did.

Mom (on the left) and Honore at the beach in 1937.

Mom and Honore in 1939, one year after my folks married.

9 thoughts on “The Ghost and Mrs. S.

  1. I think in these tough situations you’re very sensitive and kind to your mother and that’s lovely. My widower father is 85. He still has all of his marbles, but most of his friends have checked out. He recently told me that he’s now the oldest guy amongst the old guys he hangs out with at the mall. Sometimes he laments still being tack sharp amongst so many people that aren’t. He thinks it’s almost a blessing to be tuned out on reality than to be so aware of how he’s no longer who he once was physically, how much he misses his wife, and how much aging sucks. Then, he sees a movie he loves like “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, or one of his teams wins, or he attends a dance recital where his granddaughter has a solo, and then, he feels energized and rediscovers some bliss.


  2. Lovely pictures of two good friends! My money’s on Honore. I have heard a lot during my “Hotel” visits to know some visitors come by who have long since passed from this “vale of tears…”


  3. pretty sure just letting the misfires go by is the right thing to do… a good friend always says “our lives become the stories that we weave”, and i’d have to agree with him. and oh, those pictures… thank you for that.


  4. This is sweet. I “played along” with Cousin Dave when I took care of him. As Angelina recommended–you must write the book.


  5. My mom was eighty-three when one day I got a call from her saying she’d fallen down in the driveway. I asked,”Are you all right?” “Yeah,” she said, “some old guys stopped their cars and picked me up. They wanted to walk me to the door, but I told them I’d be all right.” I asked how old they were, to which she replied,”In their sixties.” I said,”Oh, I thought they might be in their ninties since you called them old.” She said, “Oh, shut up!”


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