This Hour Her Vigil

The Christmas ornaments, decorations, and lights are packed away, a New Year’s Day ritual that is tedious but satisfying. This year, my sense of accomplishment is troubled by a nagging sense of something unfinished, something demanding my attention. But the task before me is not mine to complete: it is my mother’s. She is dying. We are merely keeping vigil. Her Alzheimer’s has run a rapid course since her diagnosis 3 years ago. Nevertheless, this last stretch has caught us […]

Of Mere Being

I’ve just returned from a much anticipated, much dreaded three-day sojourn in Connecticut, where I saw Mom for the first time in her new living quarters, an extended care facility called Arden Courts. My family had given me a pretty clear picture of what to expect, but they couldn’t prepare me for the emotional wallop of seeing her, dozing in the common room, wheelchair-bound, listing to the side, head tilted back, arms stiff, legs atrophied, feet puffy in her unused shoes. […]

You Don't Get What You Pay For

One thing we’ve learned about Alzheimer’s care is that you don’t get what you pay for. Quality of care doesn’t correlate to cost of care. For instance, my Mom was getting excellent care in the assisted living wing of the retirement village she lived in, a few buildings away from my Dad’s apartment. The facilities were lovely: she had a spacious, private room with an elegant seating area composed of Aunt Opal’s Queen Anne furniture. The staff was friendly and […]

Sending Kids to College for the First Time

We  just moved one of our twin sons to Washington University in St. Louis, one time zone away. In two weeks, we’ll help set up his brother at Stanford University, three time zones away. I’m thrilled for our sons, nervous about the challenges ahead, and excited about the marvelous opportunities that lie before them.  Distracting myself with organizational tasks and preparations, I’ve managed to avoid being maudlin, morose, sentimental, and weepy (most of the time). Letting Luke go was harder […]

Favorite books for summertime reading

It’s summertime, so my blog productivity has slowed as the thermometer inches into the 90s. Davidson College asked for Summertime Reading Picks, and since I managed to come up with a few, I thought I’d post them here to generate the specter of activity. But don’t be confused by Cassatt’s lovely pastel drawing (left): the books recommended here are not suitable for reading aloud to small children! Irene Nemirovksy, Suite Francaise. A historical novel that was interrupted by history, Suite Francaise […]

A Final Word

  I took a Russian literature course in college taught by a visiting professor from what was then the USSR. With an authoritarian teaching style that was a marked contrast to the American liberal arts approach I’d become accustomed to, he interrogated us with questions like, “What’s the one word to describe Raskolnikov?” A student brave enough to posit an answer was pronounced, “WRONG.” I sat in silence, fearing humiliation and fuming at the poetic injustice of a question that […]

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai

  We saw “The Fountin of Bakhchisarai” at the Mariinski Theater in St. Petersburg, a ballet based on an 1823 narrative poem by Pushkin. The ballet debuted in 1934 in the same theater, which was then called the Kirov (and St. Petersburg was called Leningrad).  Alison, Mark, and Shaw have already posted vivid descriptions of the opulent theater and the gorgeous ballet. I’m adding on in an attempt to capture a thought-provoking conversation with Alison the next day. One of the great benefits of traveling with Davidson professors […]

We’re in St. Petersburg

  We took the high speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg this morning. Maybe it was the smooth traveling, the precipitous drop in temperature (from high 80s to high 40s), or the delicious lunch we had a cafe Amanda took us to when we got here, but we were quite giddy in the van on the way to our apartment. The driver told Irina (in Russian) that we were a “joyful group”: “you ladies are a fun bunch, so […]

Pushkiniana: “that’s a story”

  Our Moscow guide speaks excellent English, with a delightfully idiosyncratic vocabulary. He speaks of “impudent” paintings and “violet” buildings in the skyline. As we approach the White House, he quips, “the closer you get to the government, the more forbidding the signs.” He’s studied English all his life, but he acquired his marvelous vocabulary from an elderly Englishman who hired him to teach him Russian in the early 1990’s, when the USSR had dissolved and Russia was opening up […]

Moscow’s Wide Streets

Here’s picture of the building we (the women in the group) are staying in, taken from across the street. Further down, you can see the Foreign Ministry, one of the “Seven Sisters” buildings constructed under Stalin, which we affectionately call the Ministry of Magic. You can also see that the boulevard is extremely wide, with several lanes of traffic in each direction. To cross the boulevard, you have to walk to a corner with an underpass. This boulevard is one […]