The face before she laughs

A few weeks ago I sent a belated birthday card and letter update to my mom.

I couldn’t find the address to where she is currently living so I Googled it.

Clicking through the website for the retirement home to find the mailing address brought me to a page where my mom’s face is a part of the banner at the top of the screen.

I stopped and stared.

I know that face.

It is the face she makes right before she laughs.

before-she-laughs-mum

The photographer may not have known that there was something coming beyond that face he/she captured, but I knew. Maybe he/she snapped more photos but this was the one that the workers, also in the photo, chose because it was more flattering to them personally.

That’s how it goes with photos, you’re at the mercy of the person posting, and they will always pick the most flattering one for their own self. As would I, as – likely – would you.

Still, her face frozen in that pre-laugh moment made me think of times I’d seen that face before.

Reminded me of more times where she would laugh with delight. Reminded me of times I have loved and even admired for her strength, and her uniqueness.

I’m glad to have those moments, flashes of memory, of a happier woman. She is a pretty interesting human with her good parts and her not so good parts – as are we all. Y’know?

I’m glad to have more memories of the good moments coming back.

It was good to see her in the photo on the verge of a good laugh.

I am happy that she’s surrounded by people who are looking out for her, and that she’s not alone. It was harder for me knowing she was living alone in Adelaide, or alone in India, this new situation, with a photo to boot, is way better for me. I’m relieved.

It appears it is better for her too.

This photo was used twice on the site, and there is a second photo of her in the distance in what appears to be a rec. room.

Looks like she is in a decent place and that’s a relief too.

There is an email address and I could possibly start emailing updates to read to/give to her rather than mail them. I’ll still mail cards, but email would allow me to put photos and things.

It’s interesting that I continue to pursue this connection.

I don’t want to communicate with her personally at this point, but the ‘effort making’ portion alleviates some discomfort for me.

Alleviates guilt perhaps, though guilt might be too strong a word for this emotion, but perhaps it is that too.

I’ve definitely struggled with the guilt associated with not being connected with my parents over the years.

For many years before my dad passed, while I was still living in Australia, I did not see him regularly. And by regularly, I mean years and years passed between visits. I dealt with enormous nagging guilt over not calling him during that time.

There was always a conflict within me about who was the one who should call; the parent, who was making zero effort to connect, or the child, who was feeling abandoned and guilty about not connecting.

And is there even a right answer to that conflict?

Thankfully during the last year I lived in Australia I did reconnect with him and saw him every weekend. This was healing for me and for him too.

I have that same conflict with my mom. Is she at a point where she doesn’t remember who I am? Or do the staff at the facility just not want to transcribe a message or send a card or whatever? Perhaps it’s against their policy to respond to family.

It’s not as though I’m worried about connecting, or thinking about it a lot and feeling stuck about it, it’s more that – perhaps – if nothing else…

I didn’t give up.

I tried.

And, to the end, I continued to try.

Perhaps my small effort does alleviate the guilt of not being there for her now, as she ages.  Isn’t that what children are supposed to do? Be there for their parents as they age, giving back the love and nurture they received as a child – no matter the emotional (or otherwise) obstacles they’ve faced over the years?

It sure works that way in the movies. But life isn’t a movie, and sometimes all we have is the smallest gesture that says, “I tried.” I didn’t give up.

Her birthday is August 16, I sent it August 22 from Canada, so it will likely not reach Australia until sometime in September. She should have it by now.

Late, but I hope still well received.

It was nice to see her face in that pre-laugh pose, and I hope that whatever else is in her life right now that laughter is a big part of it.

We all deserve joy in our lives, and if deserving were based on the amount of hurting in our past – she deserves a lot of joy now.

If the dementia is the only thing that has brought her enough relief in her now to be laughing, then I see that as a blessing too.

As for me, I’m really glad I sought the address through the website and came across her photo.

It felt good to see and remember the face before she smiles.

How about you? Have you seen a face from your past in a happy place through the social media channels that made you feel some relief for that person? And for you.

Warm smiles and Love,

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2 thoughts on “The face before she laughs

    • Thanks for your comment Calvin.
      This post made me sad too. On the upside it was good to remember the laughter, the good moments that have often escaped my memory. It was good to see her face on the website and know she is, at least for as long as it took to capture the moment, happy.
      I’m sorry for your loss Calvin. However, I am happy for you that you had a close relationship with both of your parents. That is something to treasure, you are fortunate 🙂 <3
      Ali J

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