June 28, 2010
Every now and then I stop in the alley between the chapel at The Place and a row of garages and fenced-up, barking dogs in order to pick flowers for Alice. Along the chapel wall, unseen by anyone but the dogs, grow hundreds of roses in a mind-blasting variety of colors: saffron yellow, butter yellow, cat paw pink, apricot, Corvette red, harlot scarlet, bridal white, clotted cream, and so forth. You get the idea (Portland: City of Roses). These unappreciated beauties call to me and so I occasionally take one or two. Who’s to care? The dogs? The dogs do bark more excitedly than usual when I stop, I admit, but I attribute this to canine enthusiasm for mischief in general. They want to share in the fun.
Alice grew up in North Dakota and then lived in five other states as my father was transferred from department store to department store around the Midwest. Not one of her yards ever contained a rosebush. Her childhood was impoverished. No bushes of any kind grew in the grassless yard at all. Today, the very presence of a single rose can make her cry. She pays The Place $3000/month for a tiny apartment and food she doesn’t much like and so she figures an occasional stolen rose from the back wall of The Place’s chapel is her due.
This past week she made up a song about this thievery and sang it to me as we were on our way to a follow-up appointment with the surgeon who replaced her broken hip with a good, new one. This is how her song went (to the tune of Paper Roses):
Stolen roses, stolen roses
Oh how much those roses mean to me
They’re not paper, these lovely roses
They’re my own reality
She said she thought it up in the middle of the night and acknowledges it needs some work.
© 2010 Andrea Carlisle
June 20, 2010
Mr. Fickle is my mother’s name for a man in his eighties who lives at The Place. He kissed Alice’s cheek on New Year’s Day and occasionally he holds her hand, in a passing hello, a bit longer than, as she puts it, is necessary. His real name is Howard. “He’s not as handsome as your father was,” she’s told me more than once. “Not by a long shot.” Read the rest of this entry »
June 19, 2010
Alice wanted a walker you could sit on. “Everybody at The Place has one,” she told me. Sit-on walkers can be pushed and are shaped like small chairs, so you can sit down when you get tired.
We went to the walker store but she didn’t like what she saw. “They’re all so big!” She poked at several of the metal walkers with her cane and they rolled slightly. “I don’t want a great big thing like that. The ones people have at The Place aren’t that big.” She has a way of sounding irritated even when she’s not.
When she spied a smallish one at the end of a row, she headed toward it, sat down on its tiny seat, placed her cane across her lap, and smiled. A woman came out from behind the counter. “That’s too small for you,” she said. My mother made a face at me, as if I’d said this. I asked her if the seat was comfortable. “Not really,” she admitted.
Reluctantly, she got up. Then she pointed at a king-sized walker nearby. “You’re not going to make me take that one!”
“Of course not, no,” the clerk said. “That’s for a really large person.” She rolled out a medium-sized walker.
Alice sat down in it. “Well, yes,” she admitted. “This is a better fit.” Her smile this time looked more genuine. She was having a little Goldilocks moment. Read the rest of this entry »
June 19, 2010
Alice was experiencing a worse-than-usual day of poor hearing yesterday when we were at the vision clinic. She could not hear anything the doctor was saying. I was seated behind him. He’d speak, she’d frown and look at me, and I would yell his words to her.
She explained to us that sometimes her hearing aids fail and then will suddenly improve. “It’s mysterious,” she said, “but that’s how it happens.” We all kept hoping they would improve during the exam, but they didn’t. Nor did they improve when we sat with the guy who fit her glasses. Nor at Starbuck’s, where we stopped to get cocoa on the way home.
At around ten p.m. she called me and said, “My hearing aids are working now. Want to go somewhere?”
© 2010 Andrea Carlisle
June 19, 2010
I’m a woman in my 60s who, like many others, finds that one of my main tasks in life these days is taking care of my mother. Alice is 94. She moved from Iowa to Oregon, where I live, two years ago and now has an apartment in an assisted living center. There’s a statue of a pregnant Virgin Mary in the front yard of the facility, which is owned by the Catholic church. She can’t quite get over this. “I’ve never, ever in all my life seen a pregnant Mary.” Although she is not religious, she disapproves. In any case, she can’t seem to remember, or doesn’t care to remember, the name of the facility and simply calls it”The Place,” as she did recently when tired from an outing: “Better get me back to The Place.”
She’s been through a lot since she came here, including hip replacement surgery. She’s the most undaunted woman I know, and yet she’s also incredibly shy at times. Her self-expression with others (outside of family) is hobbled by growing up in an era when the word “feminism” was not even spoken until I was in my late teens. But her self-expression with me is what I care about for the purposes of this blog. Her move to Portland has changed our lives. I’m hoping to keep track of some moments with her that I don’t ever want to forget.
(The names of residents and others on this blog have been changed to protect privacy.)