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 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 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 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 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 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 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
It started with a tweet:
November 15, 2012
November 7, 2012
Alice’s first e-mail of the day:
“Susan B. had a pretty good night.”
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 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 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 »
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.
June 5, 2012
As she approached her table for dinner, Alice spied something on the floor. With her poor eyesight she could make out that it was small, light in color, and unimportant as far as she was concerned. She ignored it. Read the rest of this entry »
May 28, 2012
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 16, 2012
I decided to put the book about Alice’s shoes in a shoebox, wrap it up pretty, and give it to her for Mother’s Day.
I tested the width to see if the book would fit inside with crepe paper.
It did, and so I added a box of chocolates and a pendant and more crepe paper and wrapped it all up in flowers.
May 6, 2012
Alice was feeling pretty good. We’d just left the doctor’s office where the doctor told her that once again (the fourth visit in a row) she did not need an injection for her eye problem, macular degeneration. We’d picked up our usual supply of cocoa and sandwiches and were headed back toward her apartment. She had left only two hours before with the sense of dread she feels when going to these appointments. But now, riding toward home in high spirits, she asked cheerily, “Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw a dead person?”
Read the rest of this entry »
April 30, 2012
As many of you read in a previous post, Alice wrote a little poem in honor of a pair of shoes she found at Goodwill. Several readers responded to an invitation to write verses of their own to celebrate Alice’s new black flats. Alice loved these poems so much she requested a “booklet.” I went to blurb.com, a make-your-own-book web site, and now, a mere 600 hours and a persistent twitch beneath my left eye later (I am not the Queen of Software), Lo! A book exists. Read the rest of this entry »
April 22, 2012
April 1, 2012
When Alice awoke last Tuesday morning, she turned onto her right side and cried out in pain. Read the rest of this entry »
March 13, 2012
March 10, 2012
Alice cannot hear any of her five alarm clocks, and so I am calling upon you for help.
March 5, 2012
To err is Human
To forgive, Canine
Alice was unhappy when I didn’t come to collect her for our Goodwill excursion exactly on time. Read the rest of this entry »
February 20, 2012
In 1924, when Alice was nine years old, she found herself in front of the jailhouse at the edge of a mob calling for a hanging.
January 31, 2012
On one of our evening phone calls, I told Alice I was going to bring her a surprise. When I got to her apartment the next day in the company of my old friend, Gordon, she had written out a list of guesses as to what her surprise might be: Read the rest of this entry »
January 29, 2012
January 16, 2012
January 10, 2012
December 29, 2011
“I have an inferiority complex,” Alice announced almost happily on Christmas day, as if she’d just found one in her stocking.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 15, 2011
In 1923, when Alice was eight years old, her best friend Hazel asked her if she wanted a job. Hazel needed help loading up bottles of beer that her father had made and taking them to the cave where he hid his brew. She promised they’d each get a quarter for about an hour’s worth of work.
December 7, 2011
When I celebrated my birthday last week, Alice mentioned that it had snowed that night long ago in Bismarck. She described the weather as “bitterly cold.”
Bitterness must have seeped in through the hospital walls because it also played a role in the birthing. Read the rest of this entry »