June 28, 2011
Almost every woman who lives at The Place goes once a week to Marveen, the beauty shop stylist. Marveen cuts, perms, and shapes every head of downy white hair into pretty much exactly the same style—more or less flat on top, ear-length, and fluffed out on the sides, a modified George Washington look.
Alice goes to Marveen too, but she doesn’t appreciate looking like all the other residents, even though once, long ago, she and her five sisters all wore the same cut. Read the rest of this entry »
January 6, 2011
Alice wanted to eat lunch at the Red Lobster, the older Midwesterner’s idea of a great fish and seafood place. I mentioned the nearby ocean and rivers filled with fish that were not available to her in Iowa. “Fish places are everywhere out here.”
But no, she wanted the Red Lobster. The closest one was tucked away in a suburb, nearly an hour from The Place.
We sat in a booth and ate some fish who should not have died in order to be cooked in such a ho-hum manner. I told Alice that in the afterlife we’d have to face these fish and apologize. She reminded me that when she was eighty she had passed away while traveling to a family reunion and been CPR’d back to life (long story; later post), and she’s pretty sure we can expect no afterlife. She said she experienced “nothing, just absolutely nothing.”
“But,” she added wryly, “maybe something different will happen the next time I die.” Read the rest of this entry »
September 23, 2010
Let’s say you have had insomnia all week, you’re feeling groggy and low, and you’re angling for your mother’s sympathy. (Amazingly, you’re still not too old for this.)
Morning call with Alice. Hearing aids not in yet.
Me: Last night I slept for only three hours.
Alice: Last night you went to the treehouse? What treehouse?
You think of different ways to state your case.
I did not sleep.
I couldn’t sleep last night.
What are you saying? Spell it, please.
Last night, no sleep. NO S-L-E-E-P.
Eventually, she understands you, but instead of telling you how sorry she is that you didn’t sleep, she finds it very amusing that she thought you said, “Last night I went to the treehouse.” And then she asks you, “Wouldn’t it be more fun to have a treehouse than a sleepless night?”
You get no sympathy at all, and you wonder if you should go out into the Oregon forest tonight and build a treehouse and take along your dog and cat and lie awake together and listen to Neil Young on your iPod and watch that big old harvest moon, instead of worrying any more about sleeping.
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 »