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 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 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.
February 27, 2013
Alice is cold all day long. She refuses to turn on the heater next to her La-Z-Boy because the heat blows directly on her. Its blast, she says, makes her uncomfortable and dries out her hair.
February 21, 2013
A few days ago Alice called to say she felt sad to see Libby sitting at her old table for every meal.
“Now that you’ve gone and interfered,” she said, “she sits back there in the corner, facing the wall. Poor thing.” Read the rest of this entry »
February 13, 2013
Libby is no longer seated at Alice’s table. It was an uncomfortable phone call, but it got results.
February 11, 2013
“I hope you get to see the man over here who seems to think he is Abraham Lincoln’s double,” Alice said not long ago. “He’s really tall and wears a stovepipe hat and a sort of dressy jacket with a stand-up collar.”
We were still a long way from Lincoln’s birthday. The man appeared one day at lunchtime and strode slowly through the dining room.
January 27, 2013
“How many songs do you have on that thing?” Alice asked about my iPad.
“Millions,” I said.
“How far back do they go?”
“How far back do you want to go?”
Read the rest of this entry »
January 19, 2013
Today Alice wanted to talk poetry.
I know from this story that she created lots of poems when she was a child. Then there was a sixty or seventy year dry spell, and now she makes up poems all the time and inspires others to make them up for her. (See Roses Are Red, Shoes Are Black or my friend Justin’s ode to her new toaster, an appliance that has not been in service since she burned some toast and set off the smoke alarm at The Place, which caused quite a rumpus.) Read the rest of this entry »
January 16, 2013
“I only watch those women so I can pick them apart,” Alice admitted to me on the phone yesterday morning. She was referring to the TV program, The View. She watches it every day at ten o’clock, and she often calls me while it’s on to report the various things that appall her. Read the rest of this entry »
January 6, 2013
Alice told me on the phone a couple of days ago that she’s reading a book about mail-order brides in the days of the Old West. The moment I arrived with her groceries yesterday, she wanted to give me a report.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 31, 2012
Last night Alice told me that she ought to try going downstairs again to do some laundry. She hasn’t attempted the journey to the laundry room for a couple of years. The strange machines with their demands for coins proved daunting. Either I do her laundry for her or the people at The Place do it.
I reminded her that the laundry room is not downstairs; it’s on the same floor she’s on. This brought to mind her recently departed new friend, Linnea, who moved from her spot at Alice’s table in the dining room all the way across town to be nearer to her daughter.
“Linnea believed the kitchen was in the basement,” she said. ”I never corrected her, but there is no basement.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 28, 2012
About a week before Christmas, a few more penguins marched in to live in Antarctica on top of the refrigerator. (Note vase serving as glacial background.)
December 20, 2012
The photograph of Alice and k.d. lang, enlarged and framed, now sits on Alice’s desk. A few staff members have seen it and have spread the word to other residents and staff alike. Several people now want to touch the hand of the woman who touched k.d. lang. Her apartment may turn into the Lourdes of The Place.
Meanwhile, Christmas cards and presents are coming in.
December 13, 2012
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
When I came back to the apartment after escorting k.d. lang to the front door of The Place, Alice said, “She seems so normal and nice.”
Yet, after the visit of the normal and nice person, she did not want me to leave her for a while.
“If you go,” she said, “I might keel over.”
Read the rest of this entry »
December 7, 2012
December 4, 2012
k.d. lang entered the apartment waving a bouquet of red roses. “Hi, Alice!”
It started with a tweet:
November 23, 2012
For the past ninety years or so, Alice has made lists. I’ve read this is typical Virgo behavior. I don’t know, but she is a Virgo and she always has one prepared for our nightly phone calls and my visits. Thanksgiving Day was no different. She waved it at me as soon as I walked in the door. Read the rest of this entry »
November 15, 2012
November 8, 2012
Some of you may remember that my friend Gordon named a home-brewed beer in honor of Alice when he first heard the hooch story. Photos of Gordon’s visit to Alice along with bottles of Alice’s Gumption appeared in Cheers.
Recently, Gordon read the blog post about Alice’s transformation into a rising star at The Place with the publication of the stories she’s been writing for the monthly newsletter. (See Rebirth of a Writer.)
He took note of this paragraph about the onslaught of comments and compliments she was getting about her writing: Read the rest of this entry »
November 7, 2012
Alice’s first e-mail of the day:
“Susan B. had a pretty good night.”
October 30, 2012
State of the mother: Remarkably good.
Details: Gruesome. Don’t ask. It turns out there were four teeth she had to leave behind. I mistakenly thought there were only two.
Dentist’s Chairside Manner: Excellent. He continually checked in with her, and he was as gentle as he could be, given the circumstances.
Hurt factor: “Oh, I needed more Novocaine,” Alice said, “but I didn’t want to ask. I just wanted it to be over with and get out of there.”
Post-op treat: Chocolate milkshake.
Sleep: Eight hours. No problems.
Breakfast this morning: Mashed up banana. “I heated it up first in the microwave,” Alice said. “It tasted better that way.”
Painkillers ingested: Zero!
Today we go back for Phase Two: Fittings.
Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, concern, and good wishes. I shared them all with Alice and she is so grateful you care about her.
October 28, 2012
Alice will have her last two teeth pulled tomorrow. She has brushed and flossed all along, but the regular dental cleanings are finally too much for her. Despite rigorous home care, there’s usually at least one tiny cavity to fill way down under the gum line.
She puts on a brave face for the dentist. Read the rest of this entry »
October 17, 2012
When I called last night at nine o’clock, Alice said, “Oh, hello,” and put the phone down. I could hear papers rustling.
A minute passed before she came back. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” she said. “I was looking for my day.” I knew immediately what she meant. Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2012
When Alice was thirteen, she liked to write poetry. The unhappy end to that creative enthusiasm is described in the blog post, The Children’s Hour.
After a hiatus of 84 years, she has finally found the time and daring to write again (see Alice’s New Career), and last week her third story appeared in The Place’s newsletter. She called to describe the reaction of her fellow residents. Read the rest of this entry »
September 20, 2012
First, I was to steal some roses.
“Get the pink if any are left,” Alice ordered, handing me a pair of scissors and shoving me out the door before I’d even had a chance to put her groceries away. “And yellow!” she called after me. “And some buds, too.”
She said that when I came back she’d tell me why she wanted them.
September 15, 2012
Not long ago, Alice and I attended a small service held for Celia in the activity room at The Place. Her grandson, a man around fifty, walked in carrying an enormous bouquet, a laptop, screen, and disk of photographs showing Celia throughout her life. He also brought cookies, punch, and some good stories.
For example, he revealed that Celia had once kept company with a lynx.
The big cat shared her bed and slept with his head on her shoulder.
September 4, 2012
August 25, 2012
The winning slippers:
If you read Roses Are Red, Shoes Are Black, you probably noticed that Alice likes bows on her toes. So naturally she loved this furry-lined pair of Jellypops much more:
However, a bunion on her left foot protested.
“Oh me oh my,” she said, reluctantly placing the slippers with the velvet trim back into the box.
She shoehorned herself into her regular black shoes, and off we went to…
August 17, 2012
(This message addresses the issues brought up in the previous post and the comments that followed it.)
Thank you all so much for your concern about Alice, Essie, and Lucille, and for your passionate, insightful, and interesting comments. It always makes me happy to be reminded of the quality of human being who reads this blog.
The frustration has died down a bit, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’re all saying. Read the rest of this entry »
August 15, 2012
Yesterday, Alice received a message from her 80-something second cousin. We’ll call this woman Lucille. It caused Alice such concern that she forwarded the message to me. Read the rest of this entry »
August 5, 2012
Alice heard this news on Friday at noon. Two hours later she had what she calls an “episode,” which means she becomes dizzy, feels weak, experiences heat and tingling in her arms and legs, and her systolic blood pressure shoots up, usually over 200. She started having these episodes after Celia suffered a bad fall and left The Place for a nursing home several weeks ago.
July 31, 2012
On Friday Alice learned from Celia’s son that his mother was, indeed, dying and it was happening quickly.
Later in the day, however, I called the nursing home and at once found myself in the peculiar zone of contradictory information that Alice had entered last week when she was trying to get news of Celia’s well-being. (See Sightings.)
I explained my concerns to the nurse on duty, who seemed surprised at the mention of imminent death, and I was taken aback when she told me that, although she could not give me details, Celia was fine.
How could she be fine?
What strange material is the veil that covers Celia and her whereabouts and her well-being.
Read the rest of this entry »
July 23, 2012
“Everyone is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.”
- Jane Austen
Celia fell in her apartment several weeks ago and left The Place to recover in the hospital and then a nursing home.
Since then, she and Alice have spoken twice by phone. The conversations proved frustrating for both. Alice couldn’t hear, and Celia talked grimly about an uncertain future. She might come back to The Place, or she might have to move to another nursing home. Her living situation, she said, was no longer in her hands.
They gave up on phone calls. Alice has faced her friend’s long absence armed with nothing more than hope.
Then on Saturday, as lunchtime ended, the woman Alice calls the Bead Lady came to her table in the dining room.
The Bead Lady makes her own jewelry and usually likes to talk about the craft. But this time she touched Alice’s shoulder and told her how sad she felt that Celia had passed away.
She talked for a while in sympathetic tones but Alice couldn’t hear her. Finally, the Bead Lady pushed her walker toward the elevator, leaving Alice speechless and wondering if this news could be true.
In Alice’s mind, the Bead Lady seemed the weakest link in the slender chain of people around Celia. In fact, Alice had never even seen the two of them talking to one another. Was this some awful misunderstanding about Celia’s absence from the dining room or, given the wall of secrecy around health issues, had something happened Alice didn’t know about?
She set off to find out.
July 16, 2012
Alice arrived in Portland and moved into The Place four years ago.
Even though she always says she doesn’t like it here, she still wants to celebrate this anniversary. She suggested going to the Dollar Store. We may do that Wednesday or Thursday.
But today I’m going to revisit a post about how she got here:
The Reluctant Traveler
For years after my father died, every time Alice and I talked about moving her from Iowa to Oregon, she claimed there was no way to get her here. Planes were out, she said; she’d traveled by airplane only twice, back in the 1980s, and both times she’d been removed via ambulance. Panic attacks. Read the rest of this entry »