I could barely believe it when I saw the headlines: ‘Geriatric Bot-killers!’ ‘Nursing Home Horror!’ And there was my Mum and her ‘friends’ on the front page. The four of them in their 80’s, looking old and innocent. Except they aren’t. Well ‘they’ might be but ‘she’ isn’t. She so definitely isn’t. I can see that, even from the photograph. Fierce, determined, yet slightly milky and faded 83 year old eyes, looking out at me. Defiant. Irreverent. I can’t believe she did it. Although I can believe she did it. She could never be trusted. I thought age or infirmity might straighten her out, instead it’s gotten worse.
I remember when she was in her 60s and decided to take up smoking, and -god forbid as she got older the skirts got shorter, the clothes louder. I will never forget taking her to the doctors at 75 and she had a t-shirt that said ‘how’s about it babe? – IN SEQUINS- then she wore that one to our house for Christmas, ‘get your cherries here?’ Dear God, she was a mother, there was no cherry and hadn’t been for a long time. I hoped no one really got the reference, but that hope faded late in the afternoon when she loudly explained to my children what it meant. My husband was horrified. Still is, can’t talk about it without blushing.
I don’t know what happened. She was fine in her 40’s, really good in her 50’s, settled, focussed. Then she hit 60 and its like the world just turned upside down. She stopped being vegan, I blame it on food additives. I still do. She took up zumba, bike riding- she wore lycra everywhere no matter how much was hanging out or sagging down. She went on one of those Saga Old people holidays and was asked to leave for raucous behaviour-raucous behaviour- and those holidays are pretty rowdy anyway. I will never forget the sound of the woman from the tour companies voice, ‘I’m calling about you mother’. My first thought was she’s dead, but no it turns out the tour bus was self driving and when they were meant to be driving to visit the palace in Versailles, she had hacked the system and taken them all to Amsterdam, where it had all gone horribly wrong.
She hired some sex-bots in Amsterdam. When I say hired, I can’t really confirm she paid, I think it was theft, but they let her off that charge. One of the others on the trip had a euro pharmacy card-you know the ones, you put them into the kiosk anywhere and they dispense your medication- and my Mum used it to get some drugs, which she duly distributed. Meanwhile everyone at the travel company thought the bus has been hijacked and the police were called. Finally they get caught up with them, somewhere in Germany. She denied it all but someone sensibly shopped her. I had to go and get her and explain to the officers and the travel company. They were the first ones to suggest perhaps a nursing home was the best place for her.
I delayed- years, because she’s my mother. But in the end when she hit 80 and she was down the park harassing male joggers by screaming, ‘show us what you’ve got’ at them, I gave up and decided it was the only place for her. I picked one with bots, because she can be a bit mouthy. And now this, all over the front page of the papers-‘Geriatric bot-killers’. It’s a very inventive headline, if not entirely accurate. She hasn’t been killing bots, it’s been people, so far as we know. She’s been hacking bots, nurse-bots, doc-bots, you name it bots.
Really it wasn’t like this once. I’ve read about it, seen it on screen. People growing old gracefully, not murdering people with random programming. Apparently its only two or three she’s done in. And it will be difficult to prove and my Mum is over 80 and, and, and. The police say they may not even press charges. I can see how that goes. She will pretend some kind of slight dementia, sob in her tissues, feign incontinence-the police hate pee on their floor. Who knows- maybe she is incontinent. I will never know. I can see her getting away with it. No one wants to believe ‘they’ are capable of it. They look so sweet and old and innocent on the front of the newspaper. I saw the children of one of the other women on TV saying how it wasn’t possible her mother was guilty. I can’t say that. Not with a straight face. Its entirely possible my mother did it. Planned it. Executed it. Laughed about it. I have declined to comment. Sensibly. My sole consolation is that no one reads newspapers and the story is low key on social media at the moment.
There is some government talk now of reducing the number of bots in nursing homes, of greater human oversight. How could this happen? The victim’s families, one of whom hasn’t even seen their relative for five years- same as me, are asking that question over and over. It happens because these people grew up around computers, knew them from the ground up. Because- old people and bots should not be left alone together and because my Mum has scrapped morality for coolness in her 80s. She sent me a message from prison, where again she is guarded by bots. It was touching –except, well – the thing is -you are not supposed to be able to send messages from prison. She’s hacked a machine again.
Surely I think, it can’t get any worse and then it does. Escaped-all 4 of them. On the run. Hacked into this, hacked into that and the prison gates opened and out they walked. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. The four of them just went to the nearest bus stop, used their senior passes and took a bus into town. When I say took a bus, they actually let this bus take them. When they got to town they ‘took’ another bus, self driving, which they promptly ‘took’ as in stole. Its all over the front pages. The police are watching my house in case they turn up. They have been described as a ‘danger to themselves and others’.
The self driving bus was found in the grounds of a stately home where they’d had tea and cakes-although I know my mum had coffee because she wouldn’t touch tea. They did the tour of the stately home apparently and police have confirmed nothing is missing. A small blessing,- they didn’t steal anything-everyone remembers them because they slowed the tour group up. Everyone on tour seemed to think they were four nice old ladies, nondescript. And that’s the problem- age makes you invisible when you’re a woman. No one could even describe what they were wearing. Once the tour was finished, the trail goes cold. They’ve not been seen or heard of since then. They are trying to track them via social media, but what my Mum doesn’t know about privacy settings could fit on a postage stamp-which I think was something that was quite small a long time ago. They want me to do an appeal, traditional media and social media. I want to tell them its no use. She doesn’t listen. I think they have figured out she is the ring leader.
The policewoman said it’s a phase, some old people go through. Although then she said she hadn’t quite seen it this bad before. The press have latched onto the fact that I haven’t been to visit for five years-but really would you. I can see the contempt in her eyes. Telling me to live a bit, have I tried smoking yet. No I haven’t and I’m not going to. Eat some meat she’ll say. Five years seems like a long time but really we have nothing to say, I love her, she loves me but that is not a conversation. Anyway you know the press, they always blame the kids, if I just visited more, paid more attention, this would not have happened. I want to yell and scream, ‘she’s a grown up, she does what she wants-and that is so true, she does exactly what she wants.
Apparently the body count at the home might be four or five now. No one can be sure. I wonder where the hell 4 old ladies could be holding out. The police are trying to trace them via their various medications, the problem is that between the four of them, no machine of any kind is secure. You can bet my mother will be doing her best ‘I’m an old lady’ act-which in her defence is not an act. Plus she will have a lot of aliases, by the time you hit 80, you have a lot of dead friends.
I dread growing old, that day when you abandon the rules and throw caution to the wind. Let her be found and soon. I’ll keep you posted.