Alice’s Wild Time
August 26, 2013
“I’m having a wild time today,” Alice said, as Meg and I entered her apartment to join her on her 98th birthday. She held an envelope on which she’d written her notes about the wildness so far. First she talked about all the waving that had gone on in the dining room.
Lupe, one of her favorite caretakers, had hugged her when she delivered medications.
“Then Nadine, of course,” she said, “wished me a happy birthday when I sat down to eat.” She spoke as if this would naturally be the obligation of her dining partner. (Things are better between them, but she’s still not thrilled with Nadine.)
“And then the Robe Lady.” She looked over at Meg and explained. “I call her that because she wears long gowns and robes all the time.”
The Robe Lady has fascinated Alice ever since she moved in not long ago. When she first arrived, Alice described her clothing to me. “They’re not really nightgowns and they aren’t evening gowns either, but they’re always long.”
Alice can see the length of these outfits, but the woman’s face is blurry. One day recently someone showed up and sat in the Robe Lady’s place in the dining room. She wore a baseball cap, a sweatshirt, and baggy Bermuda shorts.
Alice couldn’t make out who this person was. Was it the Robe Lady? Or an interloper sitting in the Robe Lady’s place?
“Hi, Alice,” the strange presence said, sending poor Alice into a tizzy. Whoever it was knew her name.
The Robe Lady did not show up that day to ask this strange apparition to move out of her chair, so perhaps it had actually been the woman herself, expressing a more sporty side to her personality.
This mystery has never been solved.
Anyway, the Robe Lady, who had been dressed in her familiar flowing garb, wished Alice a happy birthday.
Next to give her greetings was the Big Man.
“In fact, five men wished me happy birthday today,” she said, pleased to be still reeling them in. “Including Sam, the man who used to walk Little Edie back to her room. And Elena, one of the caretakers, came over and hugged me and said ‘Celebrate!‘”
But the highlight of the dining room came when Mirabel sat down at her piano. “She played ‘You Are My Sunshine’ just for me,” Alice said.
This song has special meaning for Alice. Mirabel has no idea what the meaning is, but I do. When he was four years old, her only child at the time, Bruce, had to go into the hospital for eye surgery, Alice came to visit him one day and could hear her little boy as soon as she entered the corridor. She got to his room and saw him sitting up on the bed, bandages over his eyes, singing “You Are My Sunshine” in his small, high, clear voice.
Here they are, shortly after one of the bandages was removed and he was allowed to come home from the hospital and sit on the bed and read with his adoring mother.
After Mirabel finished playing the song, she came over to the table where Alice and Nadine were sitting and pulled up a chair next to Alice. She took out a small wand and dipped it into some soapy water. Then she proceeded to blow bubble after bubble after bubble, and she and Alice watched them float one by one over to Nadine’s side of the table and pop.
“They were big,” Alice said. She demonstrated:
We looked at the birthday bouquet Ketzel had brought Alice the day before when she’d visited with her dog, Milo, aka Smilo. Spectacular flowers:
Next, Alice showed Meg and me all of the cards she’s received so far, including this snazzy ric-rac creation from our friends Mike and Gail back in Iowa.
Gail always makes inspired cards for Alice’s birthday and other occasions. For example, here’s a Lawrence Welk tribute she sent Alice a few months ago in honor of Alice’s connection with the great LW:
Alice decided she didn’t want to go shopping because she gets too tired pushing her walker, so she sent Meg and me off to the mall with a list. Kathy joined us and helped us look through racks of mostly unwearable clothing at Macy’s and Sear’s. We found the slacks Alice wanted and then I bought this sweater for her at Eddie Bauer. (Later, after Alice tried it on, she said she wouldn’t wear it because the neck was “much, much, much too low!”)
After Meg and I got back to the apartment with the goods, Alice opened presents. First there were the Christmas penguins Meg found at Tuesday Morning. It didn’t matter that the fat little creatures were all bundled up for Christmas. Alice loves penguins and she loves nesting dolls.
Katharine arrived with a special gift, a corsage crafted by a woman named Dale, who knew someone from Alice’s old turf, Ames, Iowa. Alice said she’d never in her life had a corsage. It made her happy in a shy kind of way.
Dale had told Katharine, “Oh, Ames, Iowa. I know exactly what to do.” And she did.
Katharine also brought a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Alice called it “the cutest cake” she’d ever seen.
There was a lot of carrying on over this exquisite cake.
Kathy dropped in, too, and it started to feel even more like a party.Alice got way too busy to talk on the phone:
She had more presents to open. There was a “lotion bar” with a citrus fragrance, an idea whose time has come as far as Alice is concerned. Meg said she chose this item because it reminded her of some of Alice’s concoctions. Alice could have invented the lotion bar, just as she invented her own make-up recipe.
And so it was that Alice turned 98 years old surrounded by friends.
P.S. Not everyone gets to be interviewed by a skilled radio interviewer for their 98th birthday, but Alice and Ketzel are long-time friends. Ketzel did an interview during her visit with Alice on Friday that I will always treasure.
Why the heck not? Celebrate!