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.
May 20, 2013
“My mother went downstreet all by herself today,” a friend who lives in a small town in Vermont wrote on her Facebook page. Mary’s mother is 90 years old. “I was in too much pain to accompany her and she was very determined. Everyone knows her down there at T-Bird and that general area, so they will be on the look out. I feel like a nervous mother waiting for her teenaged daughter to come back.”
May 15, 2013
May 14, 2013
My grandmother Martha crocheted. Did your grandmother knit or crochet? Do you?
What is it, I wonder, that makes the idea of sitting in a corner with a hook and some colorful yarn suddenly so attractive? Alice isn’t interested, but I am (off and on).
Take a look at these antique crochet hooks (from the collection of Nancy Nehring).
May 13, 2013
I woke up to my own charges:
As I stepped out the front door of my houseboat on my way to Alice’s, I met up with another family:
May 12, 2013
May 8, 2013
Recently, Alice told me the meat grinder story again. She doesn’t tell it often, for reasons you’ll understand after reading it. It’s a story about her and her mother, Martha, and, although Alice thinks it is a story about a daughter’s guilt, it is also a story about a mother’s love. Because this is the week before Mother’s Day, I thought I’d pass it on to you.
April 30, 2013
April 25, 2013
Some people in their 90s turn into Bartleby the Scrivener when approached with the idea of going somewhere. “I would prefer not to,” said Melville’s famous character.
Alice’s response to something she has no intention of doing is similar: “I don’t see any sense in that.”
April 13, 2013
Alice has marveled at Y&R’s jet black hair and wardrobe. Sometimes in our evening conversations I’ve learned what the woman was wearing that day: lots of makeup (always), several rings (usually), a brocade jacket and skirt. (“Imagine!” says Alice.) A dress with a skirt that swings. A sparkling brooch on a well-cut jacket, and so on. Y&R may have dementia but it’s done nothing to dull her sharp sense of style.
April 7, 2013
In Alice’s world, a perm is a must. She subjects herself to one about every six weeks. As a result of this and probably of old age, her white hair is thinning in back and on top.
Her weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, appointments with Marveen, the hairdresser at The Place, are meant to keep her hair-do looking perky, but despite these efforts, the curls dwindle and flatten. A wig, she decided, was the answer.
April 1, 2013
I don’t normally eat meat, but I never argue with Alice when meat is set before us. It’s just not worth it, especially in public. We were in the dining room at The Place when the meal arrived: ham so thinly sliced it was nearly transparent, a milky clump of scalloped potatoes, and a patch of broccoli.
So we ate this Easter lunch I would not want to eat again, a meal not so much prepared as enforced by a cook who may have last really thought about food in 1994, and served by a sweet young woman perhaps born in 1994, who found herself pushing a cart around and pouring something she called “cherry lemonade” into tall plastic glasses, an imitation of wine, I guess. It was, after all, a holy day.
Let’s mourn the pig who was sacrificed for this unholy effort and hope he had a happy life.
March 31, 2013
If I had a dozen eggs on hand I might try to make some of these deviled chicks for Alice and take them to her. I have only one egg, however, and its destiny is to join up with some spinach. Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2013
A momentary break from regular programming. I feel compelled to say this after watching Alice struggle to understand what a visitor was saying to her the other day, watching her lips move as she tried to decipher the words forming on the visitor’s moving lips, hurting with her over how much she’d missed out on in the conversation after this person left. Read the rest of this entry »
March 21, 2013
Blogger Deborah Barker, who lives across the Pond not far from my favorite British actress/comedienne Dawn French (an irrelevant but interesting fact, at least to me) has nominated me for an award. It’s called the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award,” and by accepting you get one of these badges to post on your site. I will try to live up to it. Many are the days I have not felt inspiring, let alone very inspiring.
March 6, 2013
It was determined by brains bigger than my own that there were many possible solutions to Alice’s chilly corner of the room, a corner made worse and not better by blasts of hot air from a wall heater. Thank you, Readers!
I decided to go with the air flow deflector, also known as a “heat flow deflector,” because it would be quick, easy, and cheap. I asked my dear friend Thalia if she wanted to go with me to a favorite hardware store.