pris-and-riva-at-steere-houseMy mother, Riva Leviten, was the most colorful woman I ever met. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, she has faded to the point where she is now a pale pastel drawing of her former self. She’s muted, no longer the outrageous, outspoken artist I grew up with. Incredibly, the woman whose flamboyant, narcissistic personality embarrassed and angered me for 55 years is now a sweet, properly medicated elderly woman. Flashes of her charm, wit and off-kilter take on the world occasionally come through the haze that surrounds her brain.

Please visit her website. And I’ll keep a record of my mother’s latest observations there, so that in her own way Riva will be blogging away.

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“I feel like a girl scout,” Riva said to me the last time I visited her in the nursing home.

I knew just what she meant. She’d been introduced to activities she swore she would never do, like bingo and sing-a-longs. The woman who created thousands of pieces of art has been painting grey porcelain cats in ceramics class.

“It’s all the activities you’ve been doing, isn’t is?” I asked.

She nodded her head. “Yes, yes. I think so….”

“Well, this place IS sort of like a girl scout camp,” I told my mother, careful not to use the “N” word (nursing home) since she swore I’d be murdering her if I ever put her in one years ago. But now she has actually been benefiting from some of the socialization.

I glanced at the grey haired women nearby, pushing their walkers. “Except the girl scouts are really, really old.”

My mother laughed. I think she got the joke. For a second.