Saturday, August 04, 2007


The furniture arrived. Out with the old and in with the new. The problem is, everything is old. I do know enough not to buy a new house to go with the furniture, but it is dramatic, and dark, and oh so yummy, and I just want to look at it and little else. I call it the "dentist office" phase. Nothing but the sofa and a coffee table book.

During the garret project ("a [garret] does not a novel make..." see ashabot) I bought a fuzzy white rug to tangle my toes in while writing that fucking book that will not write itself. Yesterday I gave up and brought it downstairs for some contrast. Fuzzy is fuzzy. It sheds worse than Sid. I'm pretty sure its going back upstairs in a lower traffic area. Much lower. I haven't been up there since the monkey clan took over. They scare me.

So, now I'm trying to bring some color into our life. Menopause beige with espresso brown is putting me to sleep. Add to that a white rug and not much happens. Subtlety is over-rated. I'm looking for Mexican vases. I may have one around here somewhere. Why wouldn't I? I have everything else. The sign says, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" but I do -- and it won't even sell at yard sale prices.


I am the angel of death. I signed four people up for hospice last week. I was upstairs in one of the storage rooms (in a nursing home the storage room takes on new meaning) looking for Hawaiian flowers to put on a bulletin board. You really never know what you might find. I noticed an old suitcase, falling apart, old photographs and ivory baby brushes spilling from tattered edges. You know how I am about old photographs. So, I peeked inside, which was wrong, but not that wrong. And I am prone to wrong behavior in case you didn't know.

I was looking at the handwriting, that perfect, calligraphic penmanship typical of the twenties and forties, and soon realized it belonged to Ida -- one of mine. You might wonder why, if she is still living, why her belongings are squirrelled away in the storage room. Why?

When people come to live in a dementia unit, as a rule they do not come unwillingly but rather unknowingly. They come with medical records and a social history. As you might imagine, they have not written this history with their own palsied hand. The story is a mash of questions that do not accurately describe that life, that ninety year span filled with horses and hay bales and dances at the grange. It is a regulatory requirement and little else. It skims the surface of memory. No. It doesn't even do that. It is someone else skimming what they think are the important elements of history.

Favorite food
Favorite kind of music
Morning person or night owl?

The worst thing I can think of is someone else telling my story. Well, again, I exaggerate. The Minneapolis bridge thing is worse.

So, Ida has this history, and this short list of numbers, and it is easy to say that nobody cares, but something happened in her life, something that estranged a daughter and cut off a son. There is a brother, but he is so old he probably stopped keeping his own pictures. Old people know better than I do the transitory nature of memory, and of memories. They understand the boxes of photographs left at yard sales.

I remembered, then, asking her brother what to do with her things when we had to clear clutter out of her room so she could have a roommate. So this was the clutter I had removed. I didn't realize. And he had told me to give it away. Don't sell it. Give it to someone who can use it.

So I took a picture back to Ida.

I held it up in front of her and asked, "Who is this?" because occasionally, if you sneak up on Alzheimer's, it gets the answer right.

She said, "It has my face."

I cried. The picture, which I will post, is of a young woman at the absolute height of her beauty, running through a hayfield holding the reins of a huge Percheron horse.

Ida was so alive. I said, "I can still see that beautiful face."

She said, "I can see yours."

And the moment passed. Ida was one of the four.


Anonymous said...



asha said...

Oh my god, that is so touching. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

yes. chills kind of touching, glad for the moment for you as well as Ida. Thanks for sharing it.