In Martha’s Arms

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 »

What’s In There?

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.

What's in there?

What’s in there?

“Moisture,” I answered.

She shot me a doubtful look. “Moisture isn’t white.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Things Fall Apart

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.

Gold? Silver?

Gold? Silver?

Not made of the same materials, but useful.

No fancy materials, but useful.

“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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

When Aunt Mattie Got Her Wings

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 »

Howard: 1919-2014

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Come to Alice’s Cabaret

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.

Alice in cabaret pose

Read the rest of this entry »

Party Like You’re 99

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fun in the Sun with Alice

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 »

Alive Inside

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.

 

 

 

A Special Visitor

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

I decided to name her Riley, as in The Life of…

Riley's window for watching beavers, bees, ducks, trees, otters, and the comings and goings of neighbors.

Riley’s window for watching beavers, bees, ducks, blackbirds, otters, geese, swallows, hummingbirds, trees, and the comings and goings of neighbors.

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News Roundup

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Eunice's woodpile

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A few days ago, Alice witnessed goings-on of operatic proportions in the dining room at The Place.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daddy

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 »

Besprise!

June 10, 2014

“I’m ready to die any time,” Alice told her doctor, “but it would be a shame because I’m in such good health.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Double Rose

May 29, 2014

Alice’s first stolen rose of the season had two centers.

Double rose

Have you ever seen anything like that? A good omen, I’d say.

Read the rest of this entry »

Portland artist Eunice Parsons will be 98 in August. She’s a year younger than Alice.

Eunice Parsons2Here she is at 96 down on the floor cutting up paper, posters, old book covers, letters, whatever she can get her hands on.

Eunice Parsons

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:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2292085198/

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.

Departures

May 18, 2014

When she heard Mr. Fickle’s daughter was in the building packing up his things, Alice took some candy from her stash in a kitchen drawer and set out to find him. Ever since last Monday, she’d known this day was coming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alice’s Arms

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 »

Happy Mother’s Day

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.

 

A String of Sunny Days

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Behold, the Pink Man!

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.

The Pink Man

The Pink Man

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Resurrection

April 20, 2014

Andrea Carlisle:

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.

For more about his work, you can go to his site and poke around.

http://exburyegg.me/2014/04/20/resurrection/

Or look into more details about his egg project here: http://www.exburyegg.org

Originally posted on The Exbury Egg:

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The Daughter Wars

April 15, 2014

It all started with Alice’s curiosity about the rare sightings of Nadine’s daughter, Priscilla, who shows up only at lunchtime when Nadine is in the dining room. Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

ambulance

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

If only.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

The Prune Thief

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 »

Forget Me Not

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alice Vs. The Machine

February 28, 2014

When Meg and I set up a new Microsoft touch-screen computer for Alice, everything worked, and we expected things to stay that way. After all, we two Mac people hardly knew how to change the settings on one of these things. Why would Alice? Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hugh Hefner Found!

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.

Hugh's latest escapades.

Hugh’s latest escapades, Page One.

We headed over to Alice’s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where’s Hugh?

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?”

hugh hefner

Read the rest of this entry »

The Mormor Monologues

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 »

Goodbye, January

February 4, 2014

Happy to say good-bye to the worst month of the year for Alice and me, and probably for a lot of people. Over at last. We survived with way more than a little help from our friends. Read the rest of this entry »

A Close Call

January 27, 2014

On Sunday night Alice washed her sleeping cap and put it in the microwave to dry.

sleeping cap

Maybe you can guess what happened next.

Read the rest of this entry »

Olga Kitelko

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.

olga

Okay, now I’m going for a walk. A fast one.

The Man in the Hat

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Aunties Project

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.Chapin_Aleah_Laugh.crop_ Read the rest of this entry »

Walk On By

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?”

Read the rest of this entry »

January with a Difference

January 9, 2014

Every January is an emotional minefield for Alice and me with several family birthdays and death days, some of them coinciding. I wrote about this last year in a post called January. Read the rest of this entry »

On Girth and Gridlock

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.

Seroogy's chocolates
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On Christmas morning I packed up Alice’s Christmas loot and took it to The Place.

Alice's Christmas Loot
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And Then There Were Two

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lights, Penguins, Alice!

December 24, 2013

Christmas lightsLights Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Clarity

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:

Carson and I on a rooftop in Charlestown, Mass., 1974. Photo by Michael Mathers.

Carson and I on a rooftop in Charlestown, Mass., 1974. Photo by Michael Mathers.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Happening Here

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.

Brio shortly after adoption and her move from California to Oregon.

Brio in 2009, shortly after adoption and her move from California to Oregon.

More information on chronic canine renal failure here, if you’re interested.

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.

Zombie Soup

October 31, 2013

Alice called early this afternoon to report on the Hallowe’en lunch menu at The Place.

Read the rest of this entry »

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