July 19, 2015
Outside on a glorious day.
Brief return of the long-ignored wig:
Eating well. Nights are long and scary and tearful. Days weave in and out of scary and tearful, but she’s becoming more conversant with a few of the amazing staff. Drugs are accumulating and making a difference but not enough of a difference so far.
Source of all of this: still unknown and, therefore, possible chance of repetition unknown. All she wants is to “go home,” which at different times this past week has meant different things. Right now it means a return to her apartment, but in her greatly weakened condition that would mean much more caregiving than she’s ever had in the past and actually may not even be possible if she can’t meet certain requirements for leaving inpatient hospice and for being admitted once again to assisted living. Fortunately, the hospice is (I’m a broken record on this) absolutely wonderful.
She finally remembers who Riley is, and that’s a good thing.
Thank you all for your thoughts and good wishes and kindness.
July 16, 2015
Thank you all so much for your tender outpouring of love for Alice in the comments section, and thanks also to those who feel with us but did not comment. I’m so moved by your concern, your stories, your connection, your willingness to share so generously and to open your hearts to this woman most of you don’t even know. I feel really fortunate.
Alice is in a beautiful spot – tall trees, a fountain, courtyard, and garden. Her room is large and comfortable, and there’s even a bed for me when I want to stay with her. Her caregivers are incredibly sensitive to her needs. I could give dozens of examples of their kindness even in just the few days she’s been here.
She has grown weaker physically, and her mind is not where we would like it to be, but she’s comfortable and she’s eating the delicious food served here, and she sleeps a lot. A lot! Today she talked to her best friend, Lorraine, and to her grandson, Brad, on the phone. She recognizes me as me again, and she laughed with me over something silly, and we cried together, too.
On my way here to the hospice tonight, I just happened to hear Judy Collins singing “To Everything There is a Season.” Could there be a better song for this time of transition? It made me happy to call up again life’s richness. I recommend going to youtube and listening. I can’t put a link here because the Legacy system won’t let me onto youtube, but you can find it if you want, and I hope you do.
More when more is here to say and I have time and space to say it. Thank you again for being out there and for being the people you are.
July 12, 2015
Two angelic young men, Francisco and Jeremy, arrived this morning to take Alice by ambulance to inpatient hospice. My dear friend, Alan, was at her side as she rode with them. Alice was terrified, but these three men couldn’t have been more gentle with her. Read the rest of this entry »
June 21, 2015
“I found my missing lipstick in the gas box,” Alice told me yesterday when I stopped in for a visit.
I was stumped until she opened the bottom drawer of her desk where she keeps all sorts of necessities: nail file, nail clippers, mirror, small curler for combing (not curling) the bangs on her wig, hand lotion, tweezers, etc. She pulled out a half-empty box of these tablets from the very back of the drawer:
“The lipstick was stuck down inside,” she said. “I don’t know why.”
June 4, 2015
Alice and I found two fairly new blood pressure monitors in the far corner of a dresser drawer we were cleaning out. I recognized them because I’d purchased both.
May 26, 2015
May 20, 2015
Alice and I took a trip to ER on Friday and almost went again on Sunday. The details are similar to the health event last spring but with the added scare of her mind shutting off for a while. She didn’t recognize me, for example, and later she had no recollection of a series of dramatic late night events: aides coming on the run, paramedics surrounding her, my arrival, and her fight (pushing the paramedics and me aside) to get off the gurney and back to her bedroom, a battle I quickly let her win by speaking the magic words: Power of Attorney. The head paramedic nodded, reassured me this was the best decision in his opinion, and together we helped Alice into her bed.
May 2, 2015
“I hate to tell you this,” Alice said when I visited her yesterday, “but today I forgot your name.” Read the rest of this entry »
April 26, 2015
Alice is soaking her feet in vinegar and munching on dried okra supplied by our friend Nancy from Paris (originally from okra-loving Kentucky), who stopped in for a visit. We’ve had a busy week shopping with Meg, which included venturing out in a wheelchair for the first time, and wearing slippers instead of shoes because of aching feet.
Alice purchased three new items of clothing. Spring is here. Wardrobes must be replenished, she says. Life goes on.
April 18, 2015
Because so many elders can’t sleep through the night, there are theories as to why. Doctors suggest ways to fix the problem. Those without a clue about the issue joke about old people “nodding off” and generally not being with it. They wouldn’t be with it either if they slept only a couple of hours a night.
Alice’s bouts with insomnia have been around a long time. A few nights ago, she found not exactly a solution, but something to occupy herself while waiting for dawn to break.
April 10, 2015
“I’m waiting for the man to come and kneel down and check my socket,” Alice told me first thing on the phone this morning. Some sons and daughters of mothers at The Place might have received a similar call and been alarmed; luckily I knew what she meant.
March 29, 2015
Alice is fine, except that her feet hurt. A lot. So we are giving up on the visiting podiatrist who comes to The Place, and we are going to an office, a trip that will make her miserable because it hurts to walk. We hope the trip will be worth it. Read the rest of this entry »
March 2, 2015
So all hell broke loose over the exchange of a larger table for a smaller table, or at least as much hell as one 95 year-old woman can conjure in an assisted living facility.
February 28, 2015
February 23, 2015
“I’m thinking of telling Nadine that I don’t like the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’” Alice told me last week. “Why couldn’t ‘My Country ’Tis of Thee’ be the national anthem? She’ll be mad when I say that.”
I thought of the Republican, though not terribly conservative, Nadine, and the progressive-minded Alice. “You can’t be sure of that,” I said. “She might feel the same way. “
“No. She won’t.”
“Are you trying to pick a fight with her?” I asked.
“Yes,” Alice said. “Anyway, the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is too much about rockets and war. I don’t think we should always be singing about that. We need a prettier song.”
February 13, 2015
Not long after graduating from high school in 1932, Alice took a job at the candy counter in the Berg Store in downtown Bismarck.
Here she is in her $2.98 graduation dress.
“Everything cost five cents to a dollar at that store,” she told me. “Of course we sold motto hearts.”
We were talking about motto hearts because we always talk about motto hearts on Valentine’s Day.
Every year until she died, her sister Pearl sent Alice a fresh supply.
January 30, 2015
January 27, 2015
“I didn’t get any love letters and neither will you,” Violet told Alice as she exited the alcove that serves as a post office for The Place.
“How do you know?” Alice already had her key out and was ready to jab it at the small keyhole on the box, which she can barely see any more.
January 22, 2015
January 20, 2015
“You can’t die in January, you know,” I told Alice after three days of sky-high blood pressure readings. Read the rest of this entry »
January 15, 2015
When my brother, Bruce, was four years old, he witnessed a fender bender on our street and, quite excited, came running into the house shouting, “Accident! Nobody hurt!”
So it was with Alice when she had a slight mishap during her bedtime beauty routine. Not hurt, even laughing, but she was not exactly happy about it.
January 12, 2015
“I just want you to know I’m alive and well,” Alice said when she called this morning. She’s having a harder time than ever hearing me on the phone, so she wanted to send out a signal that she’d made it through the night. I’m okay. Don’t worry.
December 26, 2014
Last year shortly before Christmas, my friend Kathy and I risked our lives in fog thick as lutefisk soup to fetch a new wig for Alice from the outskirts of the outskirts of the last flounce of Portland. What could we do? It was her heart’s desire to have a new wig for Christmas.
I kept it a secret until Christmas day. And then:
This year, thanks to Debbie at the wig shop, the new wig arrived by mail a few days before Christmas, and it was not a surprise.
December 20, 2014
Sex Ed with Alice started with a photo posted on Facebook by one of my dearest friends, Claudia, a Princeton Seminary graduate who keeps track of all things pertaining to the Mysteries for her pals.
Just to give you an idea as to who Claudia is, this is her emailed response when I sent her an invitation to a party featuring pies:
December 11, 2014
I wrote about When Aunt Mattie Got Her Wings in this blog in September, and yesterday I learned that Kirkus has named it one of the Best Children’s Books of 2014. It’s a book that helps parents, siblings, grandparents and friends start conversations with young children about the realities of a loved one dying. It’s a book I wish I’d had read to me many years ago and one I value in my life now for its honest and gentle message.
December 3, 2014
Something unusual happened for both Alice and me the night of my birthday on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »
November 15, 2014
“My wig is dead,” Alice said.
November 1, 2014
October 28, 2014
Alice fell again last week. She tumbled out of her desk chair and crashed onto her knees. Nothing broke, but she could not get up again.
October 21, 2014
October 17, 2014
Yesterday I brought Alice one of Martha’s sweaters. I’d come across it in the back of my closet when I was digging around for my winter clothes. It’s made of dark brown wool, and it has a zipper. I always wear it for a few days every January, just to feel my grandmother’s arms around me again during that emotionally rough month.
Alice has lately been complaining that her weighty black cardigan, which she has worn the past ten winters at least, is beginning to look “ratty and tired.”
I asked her if she’d like to try Martha’s sweater, still in good condition, and to feel her mother’s arms around her, as I had.
“It’s nice and warm,” I said, as I helped her put it on.
“No,” she said. “She was seventy-nine.” Read the rest of this entry »
October 15, 2014
“What’s in clouds?” Alice asked as I drove her home from the audiologist’s office. She pointed to foamy piles of cumuli drifting over the green spires of the St. Johns bridge.
“Moisture,” I answered.
She shot me a doubtful look. “Moisture isn’t white.”
September 21, 2014
I’ve got all my accessories on,” Alice told me on the phone this morning, “so I thought I’d give you a call.”
By “accessories” she doesn’t mean jewelry, belts, or scarves. Every morning she puts on her wig cap, her wig, her dentures, her hearing aids, her glasses, and finally, like the Pope donning his cross, she lowers her Life Alert chain into place.
“All my accessories go on or into my head,” she said. “Except for the Life Alert. And that thing always gets tangled up in my necklace, if I’m wearing one.”
September 14, 2014
When I first met children’s book author and illustrator Petra Mathers a few decades ago, she had not yet created the open-hearted, imaginative, loyal, and funny little chicken named Lottie that so many children and adults now love. She was writing and illustrating other books for children and acquiring regard as an artist and writer with a witty, colorful, and whimsical style. Read the rest of this entry »
September 8, 2014
When he left The Place only a few months ago, Alice and I wondered how Howard, the man she’d once flirted with and called Mr. Fickle, would fare in a new environment. After all, he’d been one of the first residents at The Place and had lived there from his mid-eighties to mid-nineties.
September 2, 2014
Here she is: 99 + one week. She’s never seen the movie and has no idea what it’s about, but apparently she knows the pose.
August 26, 2014
In the wee hours of her ninety-ninth birthday, Alice woke to great pain. She wondered if she’d rolled over in her sleep and broken a hip. At her age, she thought, it could happen. After all, the last time she broke a hip she’d slipped off the end of the bed mid-day while sitting quietly folding some laundry.
By dawn she felt sick to her stomach. At nine-thirty she called to tell me about all this. “I won’t be coming to your houseboat today,” she began. She’d ruled out a break but still didn’t feel steady. She sounded relieved not to have to go anywhere.
August 11, 2014
“Jolie should not wear formals to work,” Alice told me.
Jolie is the receptionist at The Place, and Alice worries that visitors will get the wrong impression. “It’s not that kind of residence,” she said. Even at (almost) ninety-nine, Alice remains true to her lifelong interest in fashion, especially fashion she doesn’t approve of. Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2014
This is a short trailer for a film about how music can stimulate the minds of people with dementia. It isn’t out yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Alice will be 99 in two weeks! She can’t quite get over this fact, and neither can I, frankly. A new post about her will be appearing shortly. Sorry for the delay. It’s summer and the fish are jumpin’, the baby otters are playing on the riverbank, the blackberries are juicy and call out to be plucked if you don’t mind all the scratches, and each and every sunset and moonrise deserves full attention. I hope you’re loving your summer, too.
July 28, 2014
In the summer of 1955, shortly after we moved into yet another small house in yet another small Midwestern town, Alice opened the front door to a young woman holding a baby and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. My sister Marla, four years old, sat on the living room floor where she and Alice had been rolling a large ball back and forth between them. Excited by visitors, Marla tossed her ball in their direction, bonking the baby and sending the cookies and plate flying.
July 6, 2014
Alice spent nearly an hour looking at a shawl that Sonia, the housekeeper, had removed from a chair in her bedroom and spread out over the back of the sofa. After Sonia left, she could not think of what this object was called.
June 27, 2014
When my friend Esther Podemski and I approached the house of the 97-year-old artist we were going to visit, we didn’t dream the large woodpile in the front yard had been stacked by the artist herself.
June 23, 2014
A few days ago, Alice witnessed goings-on of operatic proportions in the dining room at The Place.
June 14, 2014
A day or two after my father died, I had to look in his wallet for his social security card and other information. It was a well-worn, brown leather billfold he’d carried for many years. Inside, I came across something I’d never seen before, something he’d obviously been transferring from one wallet to the next for most of his life. Read the rest of this entry »
May 29, 2014
Alice’s first stolen rose of the season had two centers.
Have you ever seen anything like that? A good omen, I’d say.
May 28, 2014
Portland artist Eunice Parsons will be 98 in August. She’s a year younger than Alice.
I bet she’s still getting down on the floor and cutting things up for her collage work.
In this video from OPB, which unfortunately does not want to let me embed it into my blog post, she talks about her work and you can see her in action:
Bonnie Hull writes a blog that features Eunice.
Of course you can google Eunice Parsons and find out all about her long career and see lots of her work. I highly recommend watching the video first.
Many thanks to my friend, Brigitte Dortmund, another Portland artist, for reminding me about Eunice today.
Enjoy. Be inspired. Let go. It’s spring.
Where the hell is my cat?
A new Alice post is coming really soon.
May 12, 2014
“My arms look so goofy these days,” Alice said after we’d greeted one another on Mother’s Day. I put down the pink roses I was carrying and got out the scissors and a vase. She wheeled her walker over so she could stand close to me at the kitchen counter and watch. I never know what she might be thinking about when I arrive. Today it was arms. Read the rest of this entry »
May 10, 2014
Many thanks to blog reader Heide Hendrick for this lovely short film by Gemma Green-Hope about her grandmother.
Here is what the film maker has to say:
My grandmother Elizabeth (or Gan-Gan as I called her) was a force of nature; she was wonderful. As a child she seemed to me like a visitor from another time or place. Her tiny terraced house in Bideford was full of treasures; hundreds of books, a medusa’s head, Peter the Great’s ivory letter opener, the caul of her mother tied up in blue ribbon, a tile stolen from the Alhambra, a silk blouse embroidered by nuns, deadly poison, beautiful Pre-Raphaelite artworks, a knife carved from the wood of HMS Victory, Granny Green’s pince-nez, and diaries full of stories from a hard life well-lived.
After her death in 2010, I helped my father and uncle sort through some of her possessions. I inherited some of her clothes to wear, books to read, a bicycle to ride. But how do you make sense of all the other things that someone leaves behind, the things nobody sees, boxes full of photographs, and bits of string?
I used these objects alongside images and memories of my own to make this short animation, which I dedicate to her memory.
Music by George Manson – georgemanson.com
Elizabeth Boat made by Rachel Sumner – rachelsumner.org
Excerpts taken from ‘The Fairies’ by William Allingham and ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ (The Naval Hymn) by William Whiting.
With many thanks to the Carningli Centre in Newport, Pembrokeshire.
I apologize for my absence these past ten days or so. Other projects took over for a while. More to come on the Alice front soon.
Whatever “mothering” means to you, I hope you get a chance to celebrate it today and also that you are celebrated for the nurturing you bring to this world. Certainly you bring plenty to me, and I’m grateful for it.
April 28, 2014
Despite the fact that she had a tiff with Nadine and the weather has been mostly wet, Alice’s life lit up this past week.
April 21, 2014
Part cowboy (note the hat), part Fancy Dan (the purple pocket-handkerchief), this is Alice’s first creation made with her new clay.
April 20, 2014
Rise and fly, everybody.
“Stephen Turner’s Exbury Egg is addressing the meaning of place at a time of great environmental change. In the guise of The Beaulieu Beadle, he will work on, in and around the Egg for twelve months from July 15th 2013 – July 14th 2014.”
Thank you, Dee Packard for this link to Stephen Turner’s blog.
April 15, 2014
April 6, 2014
When I arrived shortly after the ambulance delivered Alice to ER, a doctor stood at her bedside. She was able to answer several of his questions about her symptoms—rapid heartbeat and palpitations, dizziness, weakness, nausea, sky-high blood pressure, clamminess, rushes of heat throughout her body, disorientation, shakiness and more—but when he asked which part of all that had been happening on this day was the worst, she answered, “The ride over here in that wagon.”
April 3, 2014
Recently I had a dream about going behind enemy lines to retrieve something for Alice. It may have been her hearing, her sight, her ability to fix anything and everything under the sun in this or any other solar system, her lush black hair, her agility—something. Whatever it was, I managed to find it and bring it back to her.
March 19, 2014
Last night Alice called to say she’s discovered the answer to dusty mirrors and oh, so much more.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 14, 2014
“One day,” Alice said, “Mama sent me over to Mrs. Altman’s to borrow something. Mrs. Altman wasn’t there, but there was something cooking on the stove.”
Read the rest of this entry »
March 8, 2014
Yesterday afternoon when I came to visit Alice, I found her sound asleep in her La-Z-Boy.
The heat in the room felt absolutely tropical. The blinds were closed, but sunlight came shining through anyway, so bright it made stars dance beneath my eyelids when I sat down on the sofa and shut my eyes.
February 26, 2014
Sorry there haven’t been any posts for a while. I haven’t been feeling well. (Please don’t ask what it is because I’m afraid if I name it I’ll have to keep it.) I’m a bit better now and wanted to send out a quick bulletin regarding the recent discovery that Hugh Hefner is hiding out at The Place. If you don’t read the Comments sections of the posts, you may have missed that an actual Playboy bunny left a message.