The Slice: Hoping to inspire a smile to light the room

SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2014

The great birthday candle caper didn’t start out as an actual plan.

I was at home and about to head over to the South Hill nursing-care facility where my mother lives. I would be taking a small cake to acknowledge her 97th birthday. It had one candle.

Noting that my mother has always regarded birthday candles as a big deal, my wife suggested I bring a couple of matches. I mumbled something about setting off the sprinkler system inside the nursing home.

That could earn me a reputation I’d rather not have.

“Hey, there’s the guy who flooded the whole wing!”

I took a few matches anyway.

On the way over there, I thought about what my wife had said. She was right. My mother really is nuts about birthday candles. Loves them. I suspect she is not the only great-grandmother who feels that way.

So after getting to the nursing home, I asked about just how sensitive the smoke detectors/sprinkler activators are. Who I spoke with and exactly what was said is not something I am prepared to divulge. Let’s just say I got mixed signals.

What to do?

Look, I’m not someone who thinks rules are for other people. And I am fully aware of how things can go wrong seconds after some winking genius says “Oh, it will be OK — just this one time.”

I get why lighting a match in a nursing home would be verboten.

But it was my mother’s birthday and I wanted her to be able to blow out a candle.

For reasons I won’t go into, doing it outside wasn’t really an option.

I found myself thinking about my late brother. There’s no doubt about what he would have done.

He would have lit that candle and invited our mom to make a wish. Anyone who had a problem with that could discuss it with him later.

In the end, with a little encouragement, I made my own decision.

All I’m willing to say is that it went well and I promise to never do it again.

At least not until my mother turns 98 next May.

Today’s Slice question: How many people mentioned seeing your name in one of the newspaper’s public records lists?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. Cigar boxes and coffee cans used to be universal storage units.

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