November 29, 2016
I took three taxis today. Yes, though I am going broke, I have no other way of moving around New York City, since I am not mobile enough to deal with public buses or subways. I continue to be struck by the kindness of these taxi drivers, since stopping for me means that they need to get out of their seats and actively help me and my walker enter their cabs. And sometimes it doesn’t work and they need to leave me and move on. Never have I heard an unkind word; never has anyone been anything but kind and considerate of my feelings.
And of course that made me think about the people close to me, many of who are distinctly inconvenienced by my state, as well as, and I am guessing here, disappointed that things are not as easy as they used to be. I am not who I used to be. And perhaps I am on a roller coaster that moves only in one direction….downwards.
Today, I saw the young man, Aki, who has been cutting my hair for the last ten or fifteen years, during which time he has married and become the father of two darling little girls, now six months and three years. I made a sweater and hat for the first little girl, nothing yet for the second, but she may have used them as well. Aki suggested quietly that perhaps the next time I need a haircut he would come to me, since the ice and snow would not be possible for me to traverse. Even today, it was difficult to get up the cement steps to the hallway and then into an elevator. And a very kind young woman offered to see me downstairs and to get a taxi for me, since I was going on to see dear Dr. Charney, the neurologist who was so brilliant about Mariam Chamberlain’s emergency treatment that she lived her last six years in relative physical comfort.
Dr. Charney has also been kind, considerate, and clever with regard to what ails me, though he also has not offered what isn’t possible. For me, his comforting assurance that I was not a candidate for Alzheimer’s has been most important. I’ve often said that I could live with disability as long as I could use my fingers at a keyboard. And that is now where I am. But I can’t walk normally and no one can tell me why not. Dr. Charney once again offered rehab to me. I tell him my feet are sometime burning hot and he murmurs neuropathy and offers me a tiny dose of something that may stop the heat. Take these and call me on Friday, he says.
Where am I going?--you may be asking. I began with the kindness of strangers, moved on to people whom I have known for some years, but the person in my head when I began to write was AnnJ, my daughter-in-law, who spent her days researching walkers to find one that she knew would please me. See the photo of the walker both opened and closed. It goes to the opera and the theatre quite easily, as well as to doctors, and even to a grocery store for a couple of things. And I haven’t been thinking of Thanksgiving, though there must have been some thought of the holiday in my spirit tonight as I sit here and enjoy the movement of my fingers on the keyboard.
Enjoy tomorrow….though this message may reach you days later. We can’t go on mourning. We need action, vigilance, intelligence, and planning for the future….Would that I could heed my own words!
December 17, 2012
Had I written this a month ago, or even a week ago, it might have been cheerful. But after still another murderously deranged young man, it’s hard to write even a sentence that does not contain a scream. What kind of society breeds, even fosters, such behavior?
What kind of world allows the mother of a 20-year-old who did the killing to own three or four guns, at least one of them an automatic capable of shooting a roomful of people multiple times without reloading? (more…)
September 12, 2012
I am headed from the kitchen through the living room to the bedroom on a specific mission, but when I get there, I’ve forgotten why I came—just for a second—and then I remember that I want to pick up my iPhone which I had parked last night on its charger which rests atop a radio clock that stands on a table beside my bed. Is this occurrence ominous? (more…)
January 1, 2012
Lady Borton and I in Vietnam.
Apologies, apologies, apologies. I ought to fill the page, many pages, with that word. I’ve been silent since early October, perhaps mourning for the loss of that family who stayed with me for a week and then returned to their own life (see blog and photos just below). On November 1, I had to wake up to the realities of two weeks in Vietnam on a schedule that would have tired a teenager. But that’s the way my dear friends, Lady Borton and Nguyen Minh Ha, lead their lives. And I managed, though the journey back—14 hours (from Seoul to New York) sitting upright with leg cramps most of the way, after a five-hour layover and another four-hour flight—sent me to bed for a couple of weeks and the depression returned. (more…)
December 31, 2011
Rebecca Seawright, Grandma Alice Jackson holding Kennedy and her new stuffed dog, and Jack Wright, Kennedy's father
Yes, I know, I am weeks late with this end-of-the-year letter. What inspired me to write today was coming across last year’s plaintively optimistic letter. I hoped that President Obama would be able to do more, and I hoped that my book would do well and that I would quickly find new forms of productivity. (more…)
October 7, 2011
I’ve admitted to occasional bouts of depression, assuaged usually by a new mind-moving project, and on occasion by dog-sitting Yoya, a delightful Maltese, whose antics are irrepressibly comic, and whose cuddling warms my heart. Last week, I discovered another possibility—house guests who included a two-year old. Four visitors arrived for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack and his wife Maban, and their daughter Kennedy who is several months past two. Kennedy was not a nay-saying two-year-old. Her approach was “let me do it”—from feeding herself to feeding others. Fearless, she fed the largest animals in Central Park’s petting zoo, one food-pebble at a time. And fearless also, she fed Yoya small bits of cheese, and thus won her attention as well as her heart. (more…)
September 21, 2011
Four members of my chosen family are coming from Mississippi and Kansas to visit for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack, his wife, granddaughter Maban, and great-great-granddaughter Kennedy. To get ready, I cleaned closets and sent off to the Hunter College library three boxes of books. And then I turned to the boxes of overflow files for which there was no room in my huge filing cabinets, and which ran the gamut from the early 1960s to 2008—all in a heap. (more…)
September 1, 2011
It’s a blue-sky day as I look out my window and remember the pouring rain and the fear. I couldn’t move the large pots of trees and shrubs into my apartment. And I worried that they might become missiles aimed at my own windows or at my neighbor’s. Don, Jorge, and Jeannette, who happened to be in my apartment , turned the table on my deck upside down and pushed some of the large pots close to the building wall. I took in the light chairs and the empty flower pots. We left the three wooden planters where they were, against the northernmost railings. (more…)
August 2, 2011
Jorge Cao and Don Thomas on their wedding day.
The special Sunday, July 24, 2011, was blistering hot, even before seven in the morning. We stood, near the front of a very long line, for an hour and a half before the doors opened to a loud countdown. Joanne Hanley and I were there as witnesses to the marriage of Don Thomas and Jorge Cao, our friends. While on line, they filled out forms requesting a waiver of the usual waiting period. Reporters and photographers—as numerous as the applicants—helped make the time pass quickly. Their favorite question, “How long have you been together?” Don and Jorge’s “thirty-three years” became their mantra, though they were shy about talking about their courtship beyond Jorge’s saying that “both our families were very supportive.” We were probably 16th or 17th in line, behind a diverse group of women and men of various hues and in various styles of dress, including the comfortable shirts and trousers that Don and Jorge were wearing. Flowers ranged from carnations and roses to lilies and orchids. Several male couples were spectacular in cutaways or formal black suits. I saw several white-gowned woman. Photographers who stopped to speak with Don and Jorge, could not resist photographing two young Asian women, their shining long hair falling down their backs almost to their arms clasped behind them. (more…)
July 18, 2011
I first began to read mysteries as a substitute for scotch which I was using to survive 12-hour days with my mother. Each evening at about seven, I’d flee from the Palm Beach nursing home to the nearest bar and drink two scotches in succession, giving myself a splitting headache and a reason to go to bed at once. So I’d drive the few blocks to my motel, and fall asleep in my clothes, only to wake in the middle of the night, head aching still, and in need of food. (more…)
March 17, 2011
It’s the day of my 82nd birthday and I feel privileged to have had so many good wishes from friends and from my constructed, chosen families. What does it feel like to be 82? Not much different from a score of years preceding this one. But physically I realize that I no longer have that light step with which I once walked—and danced. I can
step. I can walk long distances without pain or discomfort and usually my balance is decent. But as I look at young people walking, I try to remember what it was like not to think about the act itself, not to focus on the act itself to keep my balance from wandering. (more…)
March 6, 2011
Yes, it all felt wonderful the next morning, and I promised myself I would never get so “nervous” again. We’ll see, of course, but there was something about speaking on hallowed ground about the Dean who had saved me from my mother and the President who had changed my future despite my mother that was frightening, as though my mother was, herself, in the room. Silliness, I know. But I plan not to read those sections in California and Seattle. (more…)
January 13, 2011
I’m on JetBlue, flying east after a week in Los Angeles. Two hours out of L.A., the ground beneath the plane is snow-covered, seemingly flat, though in the distance, I can see small mountains and a river, frozen. I long for a map, but I will have to settle for a glance back at the week that opened a year of speaking about the memoir it’s taken so long to write. There it was, when I got to California, in my hands, the hefty volume I had been trying to write for 20 years. (The publication date is April 1, but books are available from www.feministpress.org
December 13, 2010
My daughter Alice has been here for nearly a week and I’ve been too busy to write, but here’s a very brief summary. And perhaps before I begin, I should say that we’ve been “mother” and “daughter” since 1965, though we have never signed legal papers. Then she was 17 and I was 36; you can do the arithmetic if you are curious about our current ages. The first thing we did together was drive from Mississippi’s coast north to Baltimore, which was where I was then living and teaching at Goucher College. Alice finished her last year of high school there, at Park School. (more…)
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