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.
February 15, 2014
Since Alice is no longer able to read for any extended period of time, she sits and thinks a lot. She often finds herself curious about whatever happened to various movie stars and other celebrities. She’s amazed that as soon as she thinks of someone she hasn’t seen in a while, they then appear in the news or on a TV program. She’s beginning to believe she’s psychic. (For details, see the last post, Where’s Hugh?).
Meg’s here for a few days, and we decided to fuel this belief Alice has in her own psychic abilities by finding Hugh Hefner in the form of a newspaper clipping, conveniently written in large print.
We headed over to Alice’s.
February 11, 2014
Alice called me early this morning. I was barely awake. “Where’s Hugh Hefner?” she wanted to know.
I mumbled sleepily into the phone. “I don’t know.”
Mumbling was a mistake. “Don’t talk so soft,” she said, and repeated the question. “Where’s Hugh Hefner?”
February 9, 2014
In Norwegian, the word “mormor” means grandmother. The stereotype is of an acquiescent Scandinavian female who enjoys quiet passivity, who gives advice to the children and grandchildren gently, and takes her place in the back seat of life without question.
However, a new project called The Mormor Monologues has set out to “challenge the idea and cultural construction of the old woman.” Read the rest of this entry »
February 4, 2014
January 27, 2014
At 94, Canadian Olga Kitelko holds twenty-seven world records for track and field in the 90-95 year old category. She started running at the age of 77.
I watched this video and was impressed by Olga’s straightforward way of talking about herself. She’s without pretense, a realist, and an athlete with boldness and vision.
A new book about Olga has just come out, What Makes Olga Run? Her publisher said he’d send me a review copy. If he comes through, I’ll let you know what I think.
Okay, now I’m going for a walk. A fast one.
January 23, 2014
A new man recently arrived at The Place and has taken a fancy to Alice. She’s not sure how she feels about him.
January 21, 2014
Aleah Chapin, a young artist in her twenties, has embarked on a painting project that focuses on a group of women who have been her mother’s friends for the past thirty to forty years. These women she calls “The Aunties” agreed to pose nude for the portraits, and the results are, in my opinion, beautiful and touching. Read the rest of this entry »
January 13, 2014
A few nights ago Alice called and went over her list for the day —what she ate, the contents of her mailbox, when and where she spotted Mr. Fickle, what aides came by her apartment or failed to appear when they should have appeared.
Finally she came to a question she’d been mulling over all day. “Where does weight go when you lose it?”
January 9, 2014
January 8, 2014
If you have been lounging around for the past few weeks eating bonbons with the customary holiday sense of impunity (i.e., being near twinkling lights = no consequences to your actions), you might sober up a little when your 98 year-old mother tells you that, because she’s allowing herself one chocolate from a box of Seroogy’s per day, she has added ten more sit-ups to her daily workout routine.
December 28, 2013
On Christmas morning I packed up Alice’s Christmas loot and took it to The Place.
December 27, 2013
On our way to the eye doctor last week, a toe-freezing day, I noticed that Alice had squeezed herself into the far corner of the passenger seat and was pressed against the door.
December 13, 2013
I was looking for a whippet mix. The reason for that particular yearning was my absolutely crazy love for a dog of my long-ago life, Carson:
November 18, 2013
Brio is very sick. She’s only five years old, but she is dying of chronic kidney disease. Some days are better than others, though there are few really good ones any more. When the scales tip a bit more, which will probably be soon, she will be given a humane exit.
Right now she still guards the house, still thinks nothing is as fascinating as new traces of dog pee on the grasses alongside the trail since her last visit to the island across the river (though her journeys there are shorter and shorter), still likes turkey and chicken (but not so much today; no food pleases her today), and she continues to believe that giving her a full body massage is the best possible way for me to spend my time.
She enjoys greeting friends. She sleeps a lot. Really a lot. She forgets to drink water so I give her subcutaneous fluids to flush out her kidneys.
My apologies for letting the blog posts slip. Alice worries all the time about Brio, but she continues to have adventures and I really want to write them. I’ve just been so preoccupied. Thank you for your patience.
More information on chronic canine renal failure here, if you’re interested.
November 4, 2013
Yesterday, at the request of my old friend, Mark Alter, I gave a talk about Alice and me at Wy’east, a Unitarian congregation that meets in northeast Portland.
Later in the day, at a poetry reading, two regular Alice followers (thank you, Nikki and Jerene) suggested it might be a good idea to share a copy of that talk on this blog because the piece provides some context for my lifelong relationship with Alice. By going back into our history, it answers questions even regular readers may have. I hope this piece of writing will provide some perspective on our relationship today. I decided to do it as an “About” page.
If interested, you can find “A Busy Child is a Happy Child” here, or click “About My Relationship with Alice” on the right hand navigation bar any time.
Thanks, as always, for your interest in Alice, and thank you Wy’east congregants for your warm reception yesterday.
October 14, 2013
“Well, now they’ve gone and put a farmer between me and the elevator,” Alice called to tell me yesterday.
She tried briefly to explain how this happened but grew frustrated when I couldn’t quite get the picture. I decided to take a trip over to The Place to have a look.
October 9, 2013
Alice so loveth her wig that she is willing to give up her quite expensively begotten hearing aids because she cannot wear them and the wig at the same time.
And so ensues a struggle with her daughter, who succeedeth not in understanding how anyone, and in particular her own mother, could feel this way.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 7, 2013
We seem to be having a spell of scads of medical visits (Alice’s and mine), Comcast troubles involving many 800 # calls and much time on hold listening to terrible music (me on behalf of Alice’s new wireless service and so-called phone service), a root canal (mine), unwell doggie (mine) who is, happily, crazy in love with her new puppy neighbor, eye troubles (Alice’s), hearing aid/wig problems (Alice’s), houseboat winterizing (mine), messed up catalog orders (Alice’s) requiring even more time on hold, and a whole lot of other things burning up way too much time for not such fun results.
Alice will return to these web pages soon.
In the meantime, here’s a quite funny BBC parody of Downton Abbey for those of us who are addicted. This will either make you more impatient for the new season or ridiculously glad that it’s still a bit of a way off.
September 24, 2013
Behind the story told in this old news clipping lies the attempted murder of my grandmother:
Akron (Iowa) Register (August, 1905):
Next to death, the saddest thing to record is the breaking up of a family. Dr. Mereness, who located here several years ago, closed his office and gave up his practice and left last Thursday. He was a very bright young man and could have had a large practice had he not been addicted to drink.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 18, 2013
Alice has been having a tough week – battles between her wig and her new hearing aids (one of the hearing aids broke, in fact), the perils of dining with Nadine, the death of her sister-in-law back in North Dakota, my sweet Aunt Roberta, who died last week at ninety-seven, and soon the end of Web TV, which is how she sends and receives e-mail to friends and family. Loss, changes, and difficulties. Read the rest of this entry »
September 14, 2013
The other day Alice told me about the Chewers. We were on our way to the eye doctor. Being in motion often brings to her mind characters and events from the distant past, as if we’re moving back toward the little prairie town where she grew up and she’s preparing me for the people we’re about to meet.
But before I introduce you to the Chewers, let me say that it took all I had to get her to go to the eye doctor at all. I thought she was being difficult because of the visit itself. (If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you probably know what I mean; if not, just think about “eye doctor” and the word “injection” and you’ll be all caught up.) But no. This resistance had to do with the wig that has come to dominate our lives.
September 8, 2013
A few days ago Alice urgently declared that the wig must be washed. “I’ve been wearing it every day,” she said. “It’s time. Come over tonight close to my bedtime so that nobody sees me without it.” Read the rest of this entry »
September 6, 2013
When I take Brio to The Place, we often meet people in the Fireside room or the hall who want us to stop so they can say hello and pet her and scratch vigorously along her back or behind her ears. If they haven’t met her before, they want to know my dog’s name, age, and pedigree. They love hearing the story of her rescue while she looks up at them attentively. All true, all true, she might be thinking. Lucky me.
August 19, 2013
Hal Lasko, a one-time graphic artist, is ninety-eight. He started painting with Microsoft Paint a couple of years ago, despite the fact that he has macular degeneration and his central vision is gone. He’s so inspired by this new avenue into his artistic vision that he sometimes gets out of bed at night to work on a new piece.
He has real passion and is surrounded by love and affirmation. I think it’s the combination of these things that makes what he does possible. If you watch this inspiring video, let me know what you think.
And here is Hal Lasko’s web site, which I forgot to add to an earlier version of this post.
August 14, 2013
Alice called to tell me she’d received something from the White House in the mail. She said it was all blurry and she couldn’t read it, but described it as a card that “looked official.” It was signed by somebody named Michelle.
August 11, 2013
Alice carried her wig in a black Fred Meyer shopping bag so that anyone who passed us in the hall wouldn’t suspect we were on our way to meet Marveen in the beauty salon at The Place.
I was her escort because Marveen has had a tendency to cut Alice’s hair too short and in a style that makes her look like everybody else at The Place. That mustn’t happen with the wig. “Once it’s cut it won’t grow back, you know,” Alice reminded me.
My job was to be the bad cop, the one who says things the other is too nice to say, such as, “Now is a good time to stop cutting.”
August 7, 2013
A friend reminded me recently of The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson, a Finnish writer.
Tove (pronounced Tovah) Jansson wrote many books for children, most of them about this gang (and friends), known as the Moomins:
But The Summer Book is for adults. I’ve had it for years on my bookshelf but had never read it until now. Read the rest of this entry »
August 5, 2013
In the ceiling of my grandmother’s closet, a roughly cut rectangular opening led to the attic. A swatch of flowered oil cloth covered this dark hole, held in place by thumbtacks at the farthest point of each corner in hopes of preventing any wisps of frozen Dakota air from traveling down into the rooms below.
Read the rest of this entry »
August 1, 2013
At seven o’clock one recent morning, Alice called to report that her wig had been stolen, the very wig she’d just told Nadine she was considering buying, but which she actually already had in her possession.
I hardly knew where to find the phone to answer it, let alone how to think about theft in my mother’s apartment. My first thought was the incredibly long drive we would have to take to replace this wig she insisted on purchasing but never wears. (See Wigging It.)
July 24, 2013
Last night Alice called to tell me that she’s happy the new royal baby finally has a name.
July 23, 2013
July 18, 2013
“I’m sick and tired of watching half-naked people dancing around pretending they’re exercising,” Alice told me when I visited a few days ago.
Read the rest of this entry »
July 6, 2013
Leslie died on Wednesday evening.
She didn’t want to die, of course, but she didn’t hold herself above death or see any reason she should be out of its reach. Bill, her husband, quoted Les to a group of us in a letter he wrote shortly after she died:
While she was in the hospital, she was visited by a chaplain and this is what Les had to say about her dying:
“I’ve had a good life. I’m ready. I trust in the process, the flow. Little fishes die, big trees die, who am I not to die too? Abraham Lincoln did it, my mother did it, my neighbor did it, I can do it too.”
I can imagine a small lift of one shoulder to dismiss her own importance as she said this. How like her to combine Abraham Lincoln, the old trees, her neighbor, her mother, the fish – the great and the so-called ordinary. She was extraordinary, a great soul, but also as ordinary and real a person as you’d ever want to know.
The day after Leslie died, I took my iPad over to Alice’s apartment and played her song, The River. Alice pressed the iPad against her good ear and listened intently. She could make out the melody and some, though not all, of the lyrics. When she put the iPad down, she turned to me and said, “How wonderful that you all have this.” And when I showed her the photograph of all of us around our friend in her hospital bed, Alice zeroed in on Leslie. Her finger touched just below Les’s face, and she said, “So brave. So brave.”
From Leslie’s song, Stars:
I’ve seen too many mornings to be doubtful of the light
I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night
- Leslie Robinson Sharp (1951-2013)
Thank you for your kind, sensitive, and touching comments and e-mail responses to the post, What to Take to a Dying Friend, and thank you for sharing it with so many people through re-blogging, through Facebook, and privately with people you love, as well as with support groups for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
NOTE: The copyright for all of Leslie’s music and lyrics belongs to her family. Please do not reproduce without permission. If you want to know how to get permission, feel free to contact me and I’ll direct you. Write to: andrea AT andreacarlisle DOT com.)
June 24, 2013
Twenty-three years ago, a walnut tree shaded a former farmhouse in southwest Portland when a blended family of eight moved in. In time, the six children grew up and moved away. The tree retired from duty and died. The couple in the house, Diane and Scott, grieved and cut it down. In its place they created a miniature paradise.
June 16, 2013
June 12, 2013
As soon as she got herself buckled in for our trip to the eye doctor, Alice said, “I don’t like going so far.”
I backed the car out of the space next to her building. “How far do you like to go?”
“Ten blocks,” she said.
June 5, 2013
I love these photographs of Finns of a certain age wearing garments and headgear provided by Nature Herself.
May 28, 2013
One morning back in 1998, a young stray cat found her way to the side door of a high school in a Portland suburb. The elderly janitor happened to come out to deliver something to the dumpster, spotted the small cat patiently waiting for the door to open, and befriended her.
It was cold and rainy, so he took her inside and down to his office in the basement. After a few days of research, he concluded that no one was looking for a skinny cat with two cracked teeth, a soft, multi-colored coat, and a long, be-ringed tail with a velvety black tip.
May 26, 2013
For this Memorial Day Weekend, I wanted to revisit a post from a year ago about Alice’s brother, Lew, who joined the Army (World War II) when he was twenty years old.
On November 20 (1942) our regiment took up defensive positions at Point Cruz west of the Matanikau (river)…A slow advance toward objective further west is begun. The enemy is laying down heavy mortar and machine gun fire. They are well dug in and concealed. Due to the terrain of jungle and ridges and the terrific heat, it is very difficult to get supplies, ammunition and water to our troops. They are taxed to exhaustion. Coordinated artillery, air and mortar fire does not dislodge the enemy. They have dug-in in the coral and in draws and are quite secure. Any exposure of our troops draws accurate enemy fire. Casualties are fairly heavy.
-From the diary of Lt. Col. Samuel Baglien, Executive Officer, North Dakota’s 164th National Guard Unit
Alice’s only brother died in this battle the next day. He was twenty-one years old.