First official day of fall. Season of mist and mushrooms, as the fabulous smokingboot describes it.
Like everything else about this year, fall has been strange. Temperatures have been coolish for the past couple of weeks or so, but the trees are just now beginning to turn.
The DNA juju was strong yesterday. Not five minutes after I posted that photo of me and the three Steinhardt women, Alicia called.
I can count the number of times Alicia has called me in the past 10 years on two fingers.
Alicia wanted to report on the Big Fight she’d just had with Annie (her mother.) Since I am the only other person in the world who understands the full extent of the Vogel Sisters’ madness—in both the clinical and literary senses of the word—I was the person she called.
It’s hard to tell whether Alicia’s personality is innate or determined by her mother’s freewheeling style, but she is very, very straight (in the old hippie sense of the word) and rather humorless. At one point, she even had a heavy flirtation with congregational Christianity and not the Unitarian kind. I have Not Liked Alicia for most of her adult life.
But in the past few years, I have found myself warming to her. She is very earnest! And tries to do the right thing.
Annie was the sanest of the three sisters, but still insane enough to do a great deal of psychic damage. So Alicia and I have that in common.
Annie is making noises about going back to her Soquel property to live alone. “I need my independence!”
It’s absolutely impossible for Annie to go back to Soquel, of course.
For one thing, the broken hip has left her with serious mobility issues.
For another, she has noticeable cognitive decline. I have been talking to her on the phone at least once a week for a while now, and the decline is obvious to me. It’s not just that she repeats herself—God knows, I do that, too—it’s that words and connective tissue are missing from Annie’s conversation. And you can hear the wheels spinning in her head as she babbles to fill in those gaps.
She’s aware of it, too, apologetic about it, in fact. But I wonder if she’s aware of its significance?
“I just flat out told her: ‘You have two choices,’” Alicia told me. “’You can come and live with us’”—meaning Alicia and her husband—“’or you can continue living with Stew’”—meaning Annie’s boyfriend of 30 years who, for some reason, Annie refuses to acknowledge as her partner. “But you cannot live alone.”
“Hmmmmmm,” I said, thinking, I would have handled that one differently. I would have said, ‘Well, of course, you need your independence!’ ‘Cause there’s no way Annie could ever organize a move to Soquel.
I’m not sure whether humoring her would have been a better or worse response than confronting her, though.
“Well, you know, Alicia,” I said gently, “You oughta figure out a way to enjoy the time you’re spending with her now. ‘Cause I’d give that one maybe two more years. Maybe. I mean, two more years where she’s gonna be the person you know.”
My awful Aunt Jane—Annie’s oldest sister—had serious dementia that had probably gone undiagnosed for a decade.
Annie seems headed that way, too.
My own mother—the third sister—died so young that she escaped it. Or maybe it was that she was so crazy in so many ways that dementia was just another one of the weeds madly flourishing in the garden plot, and I just didn’t notice it.
Anyway, it is a bit alarming: Evidently, I have a hereditary predisposition toward dementia.
I certainly don’t feel as if it could happen to me!
But then, I don’t suppose anyone ever does.
Still! A good reason not to want to live longer than 85.
Maybe I should start smoking again.
One good thing: Alicia reported that Annie was able to follow the three pages of large-font instructions I sent along with the Kindle to get the device up and running. And she loves it. She is deep into Miss Aluminum, and I put something like 20 books on the thing, so it will be a while before she has to figure out how to download new books.
So, my Good Deed was not for naught. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.