Sunday, August 13, 2017


May, 1991
     I don’t know whether the Massachusetts contingent or the Florida contingent is the more tizzied up about the planned exodus of Ed and Aliceann and their pets. Down in Florida, my ex is already suffering from the heat and from his fear of falling. Since Aliceann is working, he hires local handymen to take him shopping and to medical appointments, as well as to maintain the appearance of a house he now can’t wait to sell. Ten rooms and two sheds are too much for him to take care of. He can barely take care of himself. Now that the decision is made, he wants only to leave promptly and move north. His biggest worry is that the house has been on the market for a month now and they haven’t had a nibble. He’s still hoping they can sell it and move before the hurricane season.
     Aliceann says anytime is okay with her. She’s being an amazingly good sport about the prospect of uprooting herself.  I’m glad my ex‑hubby found such a compatible second wife.  I had no interest in remaining his wife after finding a letter with hugs and kisses that weren’t from me, but I still cared about him. Knowing how unhappy he was living alone, I helped him manage his increasingly complicated love life . . . .
March, 1983
     Ed’s life resembles a comic opera. A couple of weeks ago he set out in his old Ford station wagon to pick up Claire at the railroad station in Quincy. So I won’t mix up the characters ‑‑ they can do that very nicely for themselves ‑‑ I must explain that Claire is the one with the long blonde hair and Southern accent who used to be Ed’s regular date but currently sees him only once a week. Aliceann has long black hair crowning her head like a turban, dramatic spectacles, chunky jewelry, a shaggy dog, and an inscrutable cat named Sybil. She is a favored stand‑in for Eva of the long very, very very blonde hair.
     En route to Quincy, Ed’s Ford began to gasp and falter. Mellow as Ed has become in the autumn of his years, I imagine he swore a bit as he made a U‑turn and headed for Aliceann’s, hoping to borrow his Toyota from her. She was using it because her car was in the repair shop. This may be the reason he hangs on to the venerable station wagon: with four ladies in his life, including the one named Barbara with the silky, naturally brown hair, one of us is bound to be having car trouble. We all do appreciate Ed’s spare wheels.
     Aliceann and Ed’s Toyota were not at home, so he drove on to Eva’s, coaxing a few more miles out of the ailing Ford. 
     “Why should I lend you my car so you can pick her up?” Eva demanded. But she surrendered, as Ed’s ladies usually do, and off he sped to Quincy, where Claire was tapping her foot in front of the station. End of Scene 1.
      In Scene 2, Ed and Claire drive to Aliceann’s and learn that she has returned from her errand. Claire gets out of Eva’s Dodge, climbs into Ed’s Toyota, and follows him to Eva’s house, where he drops off her Dodge and picks up his Ford. With Claire still following in the Toyota, the wheezing Ford manages to make it to Ed’s driveway.  End of comic opera.
                                                  MY PHOTO OF ALICEANN AT TIM'S COOKOUT

       Ted asked me recently which of Ed’s ladies I liked best. “I love them all,” I said. Actually, Aliceann has an edge because she has a warm enthusiastic personality and the world’s greatest strawberry cheesecake recipe. I have some superb recipes, too, but they sit in the cupboard with the instant puddings. Aliceann uses hers. She leaves so many treats in Ed’s refrigerator he can’t keep up with them, so my friend Jack and I help out. Any ex‑wife would say the same thing I did when I first sampled Aliceann’s apple strudel: “Ed, you’ve gotta keep this treasure in the family!”
     “Is Eva watering your plants the way she promised?” I asked Ed on the phone.
     "I don’t know; she’s pretty mad.”
     As much as I like Eva, I do think she’s being unreasonable. Hadn’t she assured Ed from the beginning that it was okay with her, she was dating other men, he was a free agent, etc. etc.  If she’s too irked to water Ed's plants, I suppose I’ll have to do it. Might as well be gracious about it; my clutch has been acting funny lately.
    One of the most positive aspects of moving back to Massachusetts is Ed’s confidence that his original surgeon can and will do the knee surgery he is convinced will end his constant pain. Without surgery, he fears he will have to resign himself to living in a wheelchair, as our daughter has done for over 30 years. Ed is so sure Dr. Scott can accomplish this feat, he has already made an appointment for September.
     Meanwhile, Kathie has been floundering in the Great Red Tape whirlpool. To get a building permit, she had to arrange to have members of the Westwood Board of Health, Building Department, and Conservation Committee as well as various other consultants come look at the property. They tell her she cannot add any living space to her home without first hooking up to the town sewer, which means she's had to spend hours on the phone getting bids from engineers for the engineering plan and from contractors for the actual hook‑up.
     My role in the Red Tape whirlpool involves going to the town hall and standing at the Planning Board window to confer with the clerk. I start describing Kathie’s project, and the clerk’s manner changes from casual to dismayed.
     “Tell your daughter she’s making a mistake, a big mistake,” she says. “I understand her motivations, but if she goes ahead with this plan, she could have a disaster on her hands.” Abruptly, she pulls off her glasses. They dangle from a gold chain as she leans closer to me. Her eyes look even more distressed than her voice sounds. “I know this from past experiences on similar projects.”
     I drive too fast back to Country Lane and repeat the warning to Kathie. She shakes her head. Her daddy needs help, and she is determined to come to his rescue. She is so sure she is doing the right thing, I resolve to suppress my doubts. The original plan for this visit was that Kathie and Frank would help Ed and Aliceann sort through their things and decide what they should bring with them to Massachusetts and what should be donated to charitable organizations in Florida. This plan has been discussed for weeks, so there should be no problem carrying it out, right?  Wrong.  Kathie’s blow‑by‑ blow phone calls to me make it apparent that Ed and Aliceann aren’t ready to part with anything yet. Not so much as a grapefruit picker. Not even one of the sets of poolside lawn furniture.
     Kathie and Frank go to Florida to help Ed and Aliceann get ready for the big migration north. Frank, oldest of seven and, like Kathie, accustomed to watching out for others, is more than ready to support Kathie in her desire to make a home for Ed and Aliceann and Strumfie (dog), and Sheba (dog), and Ling Ling (cat), and Jasmine (cat), and Cleo (cat), and Caesar (cat), and Calvin (more of the same), and Hobbes (you know). Frank, who recently completed a degree in Human Services at U Mass Boston, was a foreman at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy for years, so he has both the care-taking instincts and the mechanical skills to build a new home for the undertaking.
     Plan 2 -- To reduce the cluttered look in the house, Frank is going to rent a truck and drive one truckload of furniture back up to Massachusetts. Ed will hire professionals to move everything else north, once they’ve sold the house. It has been on the market for two months now without so much as an outrageously low offer that Ed and Aliceann can turn down with impunity. The broker believes one big problem is the clutter—a word that surely must shock the sensibilities of his clients, avid collectors of antique dolls, modern dolls, toy soldiers, doll houses, paper dolls, dioramas, teddy bears, and miniatures. He urges them to pack their valuables in boxes and get them on their way north, or at least out of sight.
     Frank is now painting the walls and doing some minor repair work in the Florida house. Kathie helps him, painting shelves that have been removed from closets and are spread out on newspapers on top of the dining room table. Ling Ling assists Kathie by draping herself around her friend’s neck and intently overseeing every sweep of the brush. Kathie also tackles the trim on doors and cabinets, stretching up as far as she can reach from her wheelchair. Aliceann is taking advantage of their presence to go visit her mother in western Florida, leaving Ed in their protective custody.
     My assignment is to make an appointment with the B‑Dry people and show them Kathie’s basement in Westwood. It floods during major rainstorms and leaks with little provocation. I’ll get a waterproofing estimate, which Kathie expects to be five or six thousand dollars (be still, my frugal heart!), so that Ed and Aliceann’s furniture and other possessions can be safely stored there. I’m glad to do what I can to help, not just for Ed but for Aliceann, too. As the years have passed, she and I have become more like sisters than wife and ex-wife.
     Ed calls from Florida, cautiously ecstatic. They had their first open house since Frank did the makeover, and they’ve already received a bid on the house. It doesn’t come close to enough money, but Ed is sure there’s room for negotiation.
     Kathie’s pleas to B‑Dry have paid off. They advanced her spot on the waiting list and have waterproofed her basement two months ahead of schedule. She and Frank and I have been clearing out all their excess possessions so they can be replaced by all of Ed’s excess possessions.
     After months of broken promises, the engineer Kathie hired last May finally submitted to the Conservation Committee the building plans for the sewer connection. The delays have made Ed extremely nervous, especially now that they may actually have a buyer for the Florida house. He calls Kathie every night, looking for reassurance that he and Aliceann et cetera will be able to move north whenever they have to. He is confused about the weather; he worries that the remodeling will proceed too slowly now that it is “winter up there.” Kathie laughs and says, “Dad, it’s summer up here.” “It can’t be,” he replies. “It’s summer down here so it must be winter up there.” Kathie tries to explain that even though it’s cooler up here than down there, it’s still summer up here too. He wants to believe her but sounds dubious.
     To help convince Ed and Aliceann that all the obstacles will be overcome and there really will be an apartment for them, Kathie supplements telephoned descriptions with building plans drafted by Frank’s nephew, an architect. The former garage will house a spacious, wheelchair-accessible bathroom with roll-in shower, a large bedroom, a little office area for Ed’s large desk, situated so that he can look out over the driveway to the trees and pond beyond, and a spacious eat-in kitchen. The large formal living room/dining room area will be divided into two rooms—a family room and a studio for Aliceann with a fireplace and bay window looking out on the meadow and pond.
     The blueprints lead, of course, to new over-the-phone discussions. Ed and Aliceann are having a hard time visualizing what the final space will look like, especially when the plans change for either financial or accessibility reasons, but say they trust Kathie and Frank to go ahead with what they think is best. One essential component that they check on daily: the sizable attached cat pen where their babies can get out in the fresh air. It will need a roof and a dozen padlocks, since all six foxy felines are known escape artists.  
     Ed calls with big news.  The house in Florida is sold.  Not for anywhere near the price he was hoping for, but enough to get out from under the primary mortgage and make their move up here.   They are overwhelmed.  In addition to packing up the remaining half of their house and the two sheds and arranging for the movers, there are plane reservations to make for themselves and the two dogs and six cats, their Medicare and supplemental health insurance to be switched to Massachusetts, appointments scheduled for Edward in the Boston area with a primary care physician, a urologist,  a dermatologist, a neurologist, and a new veterinarian who will be overjoyed at the prospect of eight potential pampered patients.
October 1999
      Once Delta Airlines disgorged Ed and Aliceann, it took three men and three vehicles to get everybody and everything to Westwood.  Edward and wife #2—dazed and disoriented— looked like refugees from a hurricane zone.  A substantial number of suitcases and shopping bags were loaded into the back of Frank’s truck.  Finally, four pet carriers containing one dog and six cats were put into Tim’s station wagon.  Wait, you say, one dog?  Aren’t there supposed to be two dogs?  Please, we can’t expect preparations to proceed swimmingly.  Sheba’s dog carrier was proclaimed one inch too long for Delta’s regulations on passenger planes, so she’s coming later on a cargo freight plane.   
     The caravan arrives in Westwood shortly after the paint crew leaves.  Ed and Aliceann are eager to release their pets from their carriers and into the pen, but Frank and Tim need half an hour to finish the final steps of anchoring down the mesh, so that nobody can tunnel under.  That done, “the kids,” as Aliceann calls them, are introduced to their new haven, and what do they do?  Complain, of course, loudly and bitterly.  Kathie's dad and Aliceann seem to feel pretty much the same way as the cats.  They are dismayed to find the apartment unfinished.  
     “We tried—oh how we tried, but we plain ran out of time," Kathie told them.  "All the red tape put us months behind schedule.”      
     The floors, walls, ceilings, outside doors and windows are all in place in what used to be the garage, and the kitchen and bathroom sinks are operative, but the shower and toilet are not yet hooked up, and neither are the kitchen appliances. Frank and Kathie’s extra bed is in the new bedroom, so Ed and Aliceann will be able to sleep in their own quarters, but they’ll be having meals with Kathie and Frank and using the master bathroom in the main house until the final touches are completed.      
     Ed falls down in Frank’s bathroom his first day in Massachusetts.  He doesn’t know how it happened.  He started to turn towards his walker and found himself on the floor.  Frank helped him up, but he is shaken.  He plans to use the wheelchair more, which we all think is a blessing, but which he views as another of the curses that aging is imposing on him.      
     The greatest excitement of the Malleys’ first day in Westwood is not Ed’s fall but the Case of the Missing Cat.  During the morning, Aliceann is busy unpacking and Frank and Chad are busy with ongoing remodeling.  Shortly after noon, a nightmare descends upon Aliceann.  She can’t find Calvin.  He is GONE.  She is convinced that someone has let this member of the Thoroughly Indoor Cats . . . out!  Nobody admits to the felony.  Everyone joins in the hunt.  No box is left unturned.  No suitcase unopened.   No room uninvestigated.  No calling, cooing, coaxing left untried.  But no Calvin can be found.  He is gone, swallowed up in the wilds of Westwood, far from home, cold, lost, afraid, never again to be safely within the bosom of his family.  Aliceann continues unpacking, but the tragedy is writ large upon her face. Then, suddenly, as happened so often even in the safe environs of Florida, she turns to go into a different room, and there sits Calvin, licking his whiskers and looking smug.  Why do these people carry on so?  And why must I get so many kisses when I have merely finished washing?         
     Two truckloads of Things arrive in Westwood today.  In addition to the lifetime collections of valued possessions are a bag of garbage that Aliceann didn’t want to leave behind for the new owners, the grapefruit picker, several tropical plants (which reacted to the traumatic move by dying), an antique wooden bird cage, a good deal of scrap lumber, a 40-year-old outboard motor that Ed had tried unsuccessfully to give Ted 20 years ago, two ride-on lawn mowers, and several old-fashioned push mowers.  Kathie says the list goes on and on, and she’ll tell me more when she has time.                  Aliceann has adapted nicely to not yet having a fully operative kitchen of her own.   She seems to expect to continue preparing the meals she’s always prepared, so she does it in Kathie’s kitchen and makes enough for everybody.  Indeed, Kathie says, one would think they were all in Aliceann’s dining room back in Florida.  “Eat,” she tells everyone.  “Have some more.  Taste this wonderful garlic bread.  Try the potatoes.  Who would like some margarine?  Eat you vegetables, Edward."               Kathie is delighted to have dinner cooked for her every day.  Between her full-time job as a psychology professor at Boston University and trying to take time with her Dad, she feels stretched pretty thin, and appreciates not having to worry about fixing a meal at night.  She and Frank do their share by taking care of the cleanup. 
     I slide open the kitchen door and have a quick visit with Aliceann.  I tell her how much I enjoyed the spaghetti sauce she gave me last week.  She promptly takes another container out of the freezer for me to take home.  Collecting Kathie’s grocery list, she leaves to have her hair done and to food-shop for both families.
     I head for Ed’s study and show him three cards for Aliceann’s upcoming birthday. He chooses the one with the cat looking into the goldfish bowl.  What a time he had trying to open it to see the message inside.  My Mr. Fix-it ex-hubby, on whom friend Blake Thaxter had depended every year to assemble Christmas presents for his children, couldn’t even open a greeting card without an enormous amount of effort.
     Ed reminded me about his frustration with being unable to write.  Gripping a pen with his sausage fingers, he demonstrated what he meant on a scrap of paper.  He began shaping the letters of my name and laboriously formed a fairly legible “Barbara,” but then the pen tapered off after the “M” for my last name.  The wobbly line looked like an electrocardiogram of someone’s heart, slowing down to its final beat. 
     “I can start out all right, but then my fingers get tired or something.  It’s the same way when I use the walker at the parking lot.  I go around a couple of times, and then I’m too tired to take another step.”
      A change in this week’s routine.  I got to Kathie’s house early enough to follow Frank to a Roslindale auto-repair shop where the mechanic would work on his truck’s stalling problem.   He then joined me in my car.  I told him about my sweetheart Jack, a charmer with an offbeat sense of humor and not the slightest interest in reading.  There was the time I went to Fort Lauderdale with Ed and left Jack with a copy of Darwin’s Origin of the Species and told him I expected a report when I got home.  When I queried him with, “Tell me about how the species originated,” his answer was, “Well, it’s a long story.”
     I didn’t confess to Frank that thoughts of Jack entered my mind at least three times a day for a peculiar reason.  He had always maintained that the only logical way to hang a roll of toilet paper was with the outside unfolding from the top.  Trying not to think about this simply doesn’t work.  I faithfully hang the paper his way, but still, there I am again, mentally saying hello, Jack.
     He couldn’t hear me because cigarettes killed him several years ago. Once I said to him, “I think of my darling Jack every time I open this kitchen drawer.”  He looked at the cigarette ash next to a pad and pencil and said, “I’ve got to get you something better.”
     Back in Westwood, I sat with Kathie at the round table and gave her some pages to edit.  She'd been working with four students on their dissertations but still managed to find time for me.  I joined Ed in his apartment and read a couple of typed recollections.  Again, he not only stayed awake while I was reading but laughed aloud several times.  I love it when he laughs. The first vignette was dated March 9, 1965 . . .
     In spite of the threat of bankruptcy hanging over our heads, Ed is still his easy-come-easy-go self.  After telling me how desperate things were and exhorting me not to spend one unnecessary dime, he came home with a tape of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto—despite the fact that we already have all five concertos on records.  Quite pleased with himself he was, too, and quite hurt when I failed to enthuse over his purchase.  If he had to buy a tape, I scolded, he could have at least bought one we didn’t already have.
     “But the tape is so much better than the record,” he said.
     “What’s so much better about it?  I’ll bet if you went into the other room and I played first one and then the other, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
     “Yes, I would,” he said.  “And you would, too.”
     All right, so the record was a bit scratched, was that any reason to be such a spend-thrift?  I thought we were supposed to be economizing.  What kind of one-sided budget was this, anyway?
     Meanwhile, Beethoven’s glorious music was pouring from the speaker, and I could tell Ed was wishing he could shut me off.
     “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” he said.  That’s what he always says when he’s feeling picked on, and it always reaches me.  Boy, wouldn’t I be sorry!  I suppose there are worse things a man can do than collect Emperor Concertos, I decided.  We sat down with our cocktails and listened companionably to the unscratched version.
     Ed was wide awake and beaming.  One day when I was writing to the Malleys, I began the letter, “Dear ex-hobby and Aliceann.”  This was a typo I didn't correct.   My ex-hubby is still my ex-hobby.

    Aliceann and I helped Ed into his windbreaker, easily a two-woman job since his arms have lost the knack of thrusting themselves into the sleeves.  “Stand up, Edward,” she said, when the jacket got caught on the back of the wheelchair.  He stood on his shaky legs and was at last bundled up and ready to go.
    I watched Aliceann lift his wheelchair into the back of her car and marveled again at how powerful her arms were.  “It is heavy,” she said, with a final gasp and a push, “but I’m used to it.”
     At Uno’s, Aliceann asked for a booth, wheeled Ed to the one indicated by the hostess and helped him get seated.  “Oh darn,” she said, “I forgot to give you your medication.  Remind me, Barbara, as soon as we get home.”  Then she said, “Now have a good time, you two.  And remember, this is my treat!”  A fingertips kiss for Ed and one for me.  I thanked her and told her she was a doll.
     Ed said something, and I had to ask him to repeat it.  From here on, I will transcribe the mumbled words that issued from his swollen, chapped lips, understandable only after two or three encores.  He said he’d miss the activities he and Aliceann shared for so many years.  
     “I don’t know what I’ll do to keep busy without the boat.  We used to go fishing two or three times a week before I had to sell it.”
      I told him I was sorry his older years were ending up this way, with so many losses, both physical and financial.
     “I can stand the physical infirmities—it’s being poor that is killing me.”
     The waiter took our order.  Ed asked for grilled sirloin tips and mashed potatoes; I went for the Caesar salad and cream of broccoli soup.  When our beer arrived in freezer-frosted mugs, I poured Ed’s for him, then mine.  We clinked glasses and said cheers.
     “Any new gossip about Cohasset?” he asked.
     No new gossip that I could think of, so we resorted to old gossip.  One of the juiciest scandals was that memorable party when the hostess corralled all the male guests in her kitchen, one-by-one, as neatly as a cowgirl singling out steers, and issued to each the same invitation.  Anyone who at any time felt like stopping by for a visit on his way home from work would be welcomed with a drink, hors d’oeuvres, and a relaxing tête-à-tête.  A blanket invitation, you might say.
     The wives were the last to know, of course.  It wasn’t until this femme fatale had broken up a couple of marriages and estranged two aspirants who were brothers that the truth seeped out.  Then she divorced her husband and married a much richer man.  She married again and then again, each new catch wealthier than the last one. Her ex-husband married Ed’s secretary who had the hateful name of Hope Darling.  Oh, how I resented that name.  I used to think, how could he help but have a thing for a Hope Darling he saw daily?  But now he told me I had it backwards: darling Hope had a thing for him. 
     “I knew there was something going on,” I said.  It was kind of fun discussing secrets like this years later when you no longer gave a hoot.  
    The waiter served us, warning that the platters were hot.  I cut Ed’s sirloin tips into smaller, more manageable pieces.
     “I used to get terribly lonesome,” Ed said.  “Didn’t you ever get lonesome?”
     “Sure I did, once in awhile. But I’d say to myself, this will soon pass and life will feel good again.”
     “I couldn’t stand being alone, especially at night.  I had to have someone to keep me company or I’d go nuts.”
     I brought up the possibility of a support group.  Aliceann had mentioned it to me this morning when Ed was in the bathroom.  He responded with his usual refrain that he didn’t want to be involved with sick, old people he had nothing in common with.
     “Ed, Aliceann needs the support of people who are having experiences similar to hers.  Why don’t you go with her for her sake?  She does so much for you, here’s a chance for you to do something for her.”  He mumbled that he didn’t think she cared that much.
   “But she does.  She told me she did.  And Ed, you might have ideas that would help other disabled people, and they might be able to help you.”
     Ed didn’t have many expressions left on his face, but his skepticism was clear.  He was mumbling that he’d think about it, when Aliceann appeared aat our taband said breezily, “Hi, kids, have you had a nice time?  Come on, Edward, we’ve got to get you home so you can take your medication and brush your teeth.”
    The first thing Aliceann did when we got back to the apartment was to give Ed his pills.  She showed me the line-up of tablets, capsules, and liquid medicines on the kitchen counter.  Many of them were not for Ed but for the animals.  No wonder he put the cat’s stool hardener in his ear a few years ago.
     While Ed was brushing his teeth, Aliceann said, “I’m going to ask Kathie if it would be all right to bury four of my pets in her back yard.”  What a marvelous idea, I thought, goofily irrational.  I assumed she’d have them put to sleep first, but how would she choose the ones to sacrifice?
     I must have been looking quizzical because Aliceann explained that the pets in question were the first Strumpfe, the second Miette, and cats Sybil and Nicholas. All long deceased and reduced to ashes.  Oh, so that’s what was in those four metal boxes!  Whenever she and Ed moved, the ashes moved, too, along with the grapefruit picker and other valuables.  But even though the animals were not originally from Massachusetts, she thought a woodsy location in Kathie’s yard would be a fitting final resting place.     
     I said I was sure Kathie would be happy to provide space for the interment, since she already had a Pet Cemetery for her own departed pets.
     Ed wheeled in to join us, and Aliceann helped him get into a warm jacket for their daily exercise in the town's parking lot.

     It was Thursday, March 16th, and summer was here—72 warm, glorious degrees of it.  A day for walking on the beach at Nantasket if you were young and in love, for rolling down a hill in last fall’s leaves if you’re a kid, for saying to yourself if you were Ed Malley’s first wife, "So there, you old buzzard, just look at what you’ll be leaving when you return to hot and humid Florida."  A beautiful New England spring with birds singing and trees budding and crocuses coloring the soft brown earth.
     A sprightly voice on the phone: “Mrs. Malley, this is Mr. Malley’s social secretary.” Giggle.  “He wonders if you would care to have lunch with him tomorrow.”  Giggle.
     I didn’t need the giggles to alert me that Aliceann was calling.  Her voice was as distinctive as everything else about her.  I told her to tell Mr. Malley I would be delighted.
    Sure and it was Friday, the 17th of March, St. Patrick's Day. Winter was here, all 31 loathsome degrees of it, along with snow falling, cars skidding, and winds blustering.  Ah yes, a typical New England spring-time prank, toying with us, embarrassing us in front of our visitors from the south.  Mr. O’Malley’s social secretary, declaring the driveway in Westwood unnavigable, postponed the lunch until the following Saturday.
     When I stopped to say hello to Kathie on that Saturday, she asked me if I’d brought the promised tape of “Lost for Words,” Thursday night’s Masterpiece Theater presentation.          
     “Darn it, I left it in the car.  You’ll love it.  The old lady is the image of Mimi.  She’s confused and forgetful like Dad, and her son . . . well, I’ll let you see for yourself.  I’ll be right back.”
    I cautiously made my way down the frozen ruts in Kathie’s driveway to my Behemoth.  I collected the video of “Lost for Words,” leaned back to close the door and whap!  On its way by, the door’s edge clipped me on my cheekbone.  Ice, I was thinking as I trudged back toward the ramp; if I packed it with ice right away, maybe I wouldn’t get a black eye.
    “Are you all right, Mom?” Kathie asked, as I grabbed for a tissue. 
    I confessed I got in the way of my car door, but yes, I was all right.  And no, it wouldn’t be a black eye, it would be a flap of torn skin that would become a lucky horseshoe-shaped scar.  Everyone would want one.  I’d write up the instructions, along with a warning not to stand so close to the door that it broke your cheekbone.   
    Kathie supplied a Band-Aid that stemmed the bleeding but made me look like the loser in a women’s boxing match.  Aliceann slid open the kitchen door and said Ed was dressed and ready to go.
     I joined them in the hallway, and he said, “I see you’re having problems with your skin, too.”  I told him my car did it to get even with me for the most trivial scratches and scrapes.  “I’m going to trade the bully in for a less pugnacious model.”
     After Aliceann got us settled in a booth at Uno’s, she kissed Ed, kissed the air in my direction (giggle), and left us to whatever mischief we could cook up in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  
     “She’s been wonderful to me,” Ed said.  “She’s so patient and cheerful.  She hardly ever gets upset, and I don’t blame her when she does.  I’m a lot of trouble.”
     I agreed that Aliceann was wonderful.  “She does so many things for you that she doesn’t have to.  Like taking you for a walk even on cold days, so you’ll get some fresh air and a chance to exercise.”
    While we waited for our order of crab cakes, I described to Ed a dream I’d had about him.  I was in the millinery department of a store, trying on hats.  I hadn’t worn a hat for years except to keep my ears from freezing, but in my dream I was methodically trying on one bonnet after another.  One in particular caught my fancy.  It had large felt petals in various shades of pink.  I tried it on and liked the way the petals framed my face—one of them stuck out in front like a visor.  I could wear it on the golf course.
      "Then I noticed that you were with me.  Generous man that you are, you offered to pay for the hat.  You said, ‘It looks kind of funny on you, but if you want it, I’ll buy it for you.’”
      Ed talked about the women he dated after we separated.  I knew the stories by heart.  I was able to supply details he’d forgotten -- like it turning out that his temporary fiancee, Carol, had another fiancé who had been promising for years to divorce his wife.  When Ed came into the picture, fiancé #1 got hysterical and followed her when she flew up to Boston to visit Ed, who found her at the airport embroiled in an emotional scene with a strange man. 
     “Carol stayed with you for a week, right?”
      “Right. When she wasn’t spending hours in the bathroom or on the telephone, she was doing her nails.  It was a big relief when we became unengaged and she went back to her other fiancé.”
      Ed said he’d talked enough about himself, how about me, were there any men in my life he didn’t know about?  No, I replied, I was contented with my single life and my women friends.  I long ago passed the age where I needed a man to fulfill me.
      “You should have married Bob Black,” he said for the second time since we’d started having these conversations.  “He was a steady sort of guy.  I’ll bet the marriage would have lasted.”
     I gave the same answer I did the last time.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss having our four wonderful children.  
     The waitress brought our crab cakes.  I cut Ed’s into small pieces, and after one bite we agreed these were the best we’d ever tasted.  
     Ed wanted ketchup for his crab cakes.  A passing waiter obliged, but my escort’s enfeebled hands were unable to get the top off.  I refrained from offering help but caught the eye of an older man who seemed to be in charge of the staff.  He stood by our table and wrestled with the cap.  Was he being a world-class diplomat when it appeared that he, too, couldn’t untwist it?   He departed with the ketchup and returned with a smile and the opened bottle.  A few minutes later I noticed  Ed was holding it upside-down, but no ketchup was forthcoming.  All right, now I would get into the act.  First I pounded the bottom of the bottle, which might as well have contained cement for all the good that maneuver did.  Then, with both elbows astride his plate, defying all laws of etiquette and gravity, I poked a table knife into the upside-down ketchup bottle and coaxed out enough to cover the crab cakes. 
     “That’s fine,” Ed said. 
     I quoted Ogden Nash’s quatrain on the subject of recalcitrant ketchup bottles:  “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle/None will come and then a lot’ll."
     "We’re lucky a lot’ll didn’t splatter gore all over that good-looking sweater you’re wearing.  Aliceann would think a really bad-tempered waitress had been wielding a steak knife.”
     Our crab cakes weren’t as warm as they were when they arrived, but we enjoyed them.  Ed murmured something about a lovely mature woman, and I assumed he had gone back to the topic of his romantic past.  
     “Which one was lovely and mature?” I asked, a bit weary, statistically speaking.
     “You.  That’s what you’ve become.”
     “Me?  Thank you for those kind words, dear, but it’s the funniest thing—inside I feel as young and foolish as ever. I remember hearing old ladies say what I just said, and young know-it-all that I was, I thought they were full of old shoes."
     “Hi there, you two, are you having a happy time” asked Aliceann, beaming down at us.  Oh yes, very happy, we told her.  She sat down and told us about the errands she’d been doing and the lousy veggie wrap she’d had for lunch -- not half as yummy as the ones you get at the supermarket.
     Aliceann helped Ed wobble out from the booth, struggle into his windbreaker, and edge into the wheelchair.  I saw the waitress standing with her tray and realized we were blocking the aisle. I said to her in an undertone, as Aliceann maneuvered the wheelchair, “Would you like to hear some unusual gossip?”
     “Sure,” she said, looking startled.
      “You see that nice gentleman I had lunch with?  Well, I’m his first wife, and the other lady is his second.”
        Her expression evolved from startled to astonished.  “Really!  Then the three of you are married?” she asked with complete innocence. 
     “Oh no, I’m divorced, but we’re all good friends.”
     She said she thought that was lovely, and she was quite right about that.

     Ed and Aliceann went out for Sunday brunch, as they've done every week for the fourteen years of their marriage.  Aliceann, having finished her meal, was reading a book she had brought along. Then she heard a thud, looked up, and saw to her horror that Ed had collapsed, with his head on the table and his cocoa spilled.  She jumped up and started shaking him, trying to restore him to consciousness. Three retired nurses at a nearby table also tried without success to revive Ed.
     “Perhaps he’s had a stroke,” said one.  The manager called for an ambulance.  The medics came, lifted Ed onto a stretcher and told Aliceann to follow them to the hospital.  Crying and panicky, she begged to be allowed to ride in the ambulance.  They said no; for safety reasons that couldn’t be permitted.  John, one of the regular patrons in the restaurant, pointed out that if Aliceann was forced to drive herself to the hospital, there was going to be an accident and they’d be needing another ambulance to transport her.  So they agreed that she could ride up front with the driver.
     On the way to Norwood Hospital, the first thing the medics did was rip off Ed’s shirt so they could check his vital signs.  One of them, filling out a form, asked Aliceann what her name was.  She told him.  The medic who was trying to bring his patient to full consciousness asked him a couple of classic questions: Did he know who he was?  Where he was?  What his wife’s name was?
    Aliceann told me later, “I was absolutely certain that Edward would say his wife’s name was Barbara. I could hardly believe it when he came out with `Aliceann.’  I figured if he was that sharp, he couldn’t have suffered any serious brain damage.”
     Meanwhile John, a genuine Good Samaritan, had followed the ambulance to the hospital. 
Locating Aliceann in the emergency room, he drove her back to the restaurant so she could get Ed’s wheelchair and return Kathie’s car to Westwood. Then, having followed her there, he drove her back to the hospital, where she anxiously awaited the result of Ed’s cat scan—as did the rest of the family, who by now had been alerted by Kathie.  Aliceann called her to report that Ed seemed to be all right, but the doctor wanted to be sure before releasing him.
     Kathie called me late in the afternoon to say that Ed and Aliceann had taken a taxi home, and both appeared to have recovered from their ordeal.  Tim was with me when his sister called, installing something magical in my computer that will enable him to fix any problem I might encounter via his computer at home.  He said he would head for Westwood for a last visit with his father before they followed through on their plan to return to Florida.
     Tim helped Aliceann put Ed to bed.  He was so distressed to see how weak his father had become, he couldn't hold back his tears.  How could this happen to the strong, ever-patient, dependable dad who had come to his rescue so many, many times, from his rebellious teenage years right up to a few months ago when he needed a loan?  Now he couldn’t even undress himself. 
     I had promised to be in Westwood at 10:30 to drive Ed to Boston for an appointment with an ear specialist.  Aliceann was unavailable because she had taken Sheba to the airport, after arranging to have her shipped by freight to Florida.  The standard crate was still one inch too small, so Sheba would be picked up and delivered to the family’s veterinarian to await the arrival of the other kids.
     Something else was going on that Monday morning—the rain-delayed final round of the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, Florida.  Woods was on the verge of catching up with Sutton.  Tiger’s eagle on the 16th cut Hal’s lead to one.  Greater love hath no Tiger Woods fan than to turn off the TV at that spell-binding moment and heed the call to service. 
     We used Kathie’s car for the trip to Boston because I couldn’t possibly lift Ed’s wheelchair into my trunk.  She came out to the driveway to show us the lever that operates the contraption on the roof.  This invention automatically lowers Kathie’s travel wheelchair by a set of chains and then reverses the procedure when it's time to store it again.
     I was amazed that Ed remembered exactly how to get to the Medical Center.  He didn’t know his doctor’s name, but he directed me accurately to the correct intersections and turns.  He even warned me, “There’s some construction around the next bend,” and there was, along with two policemen handling traffic.
     Ed said I was a good driver.  “That’s because you have many of the attributes of a man,” he added.  I buttoned my lip, knowing he had honored me with the ultimate compliment. 
     I pulled to a stop in front of the Medical Canter, and Ed did as Kathie had instructed -- pulled the lever forward to lower the wheelchair.  We heard a humming sound as the mechanism went into action, then saw the chair sink past Ed’s window and onto the pavement.  I removed the metal rod that was supporting the folded seat and told Ed to push the lever the other way.  With a rattle and a clank, the chains rose toward the roof and were scooped into their container.
     Leaving Ed by the entrance (“Are your brakes on?”  “Yes, they’re on,”) I found a parking space.  At the front desk the receptionist asked if Mr. Malley had his blue card.  No, he didn’t have anything, not even his wallet.  The computer answered the necessary questions, and we were directed to the elevator and the second floor.  Dr. Benjamin’s office was at the end of a long corridor.
     In the waiting room I began filling out a form about Ed’s medical history, allergies, and his medications.  When I asked him about medications, he said, “Parkingson’s.”  No, I said, can you think of the names of any of your medications?  “Tylenol,” he answered. 
     Operations?  Ed looked weary, and I didn’t see the point of going into his back-to-back triple-bypass and carotid-arteries surgeries of twelve years ago and his knee-replacement operations. This Dr. Benjamin was only going to be cleaning his ears, for goodness’ sake.  Then I remembered that Ed was troubled off and on by ear infections until he finally got one in 1968 that didn’t clear up as quickly as usual.  It interfered with his swimming, and that was it . . .
     The operation was something he should have had done years ago, but like all busy businessmen he kept putting it off.  The doctor chipped away at the excess bone growth, taking great care not to damage any facial nerves.  Then he stuffed a corncob in there.  At least that’s what Ed said it felt like, and he was very unhappy because the corncob wasn’t due to come out for a week.  Should have a pun here about ear and cob, shouldn’t I?  Nope, can’t think of one.
     Ed had his two-week checkup.  He came home and told me the doctor tested his hearing and said it was better than ever.
     Deciding to put him to a test of my own, I said softly:”Unphadundil prantivostic?”
     Without flickering an eyelid he replied, “Take your clothes off and lie down and I’ll show you!”
     Ed waited outside the medical center while I got Kathie’s car.  We eased the wheelchair up to the open door on the passenger side.  Ed stood, braced himself with one hand on top of the door, turned and backed toward the seat until he was able to sit down and lift his legs into the car.  “Good job,” I told him, impressed by his lack of grumbling and complaining.  Lately he has seemed almost as accepting of his disability as Kathie is of hers.  He did complain recently that his knee operation was a “disaster.”  It hurt to stand up.  
     Wife #2 said “Edward, that’s because you never do your exercises.”   
     Wife #1 said, “Ed, you must exercise that knee.  Otherwise, it will freeze up on you, as it’s already doing.”  Getting it from both barrels, my ex uttered nary a word.
     After he was settled in the passenger seat, I shut the door, and he pulled the lever that would bring the chains and metal rod down from the roof.  I had folded the wheelchair and had its folded seat ready to receive the rod that would lift it skyward.  It was still a few inches too high, so without being coached, Ed gave the lever another pull, and now everything was lined up as it should be.  I was so proud of him, this Parkinson’s patient who three months ago couldn’t operate a TV remote control. 
      “Okay, all set,” I said, and Ed pushed the lever the other way. I watched as the chair rose toward the roof’s big metal clamshell, which gasped a mighty gulp and then tidily shut its mouth.  I said to a man passing by, “Isn’t that the most fantastic invention?”  “Incredible!” he said.
      Aliceann was waiting for us when we got back to Westwood.  She had agreed to join us for lunch at Uno’s and let me treat on this final occasion.  I went into Kathie’s side of the house, while Ed used the bathroom.  Kathie was busy with a student and said yes, it would be all right to take her car again, so I wouldn’t have to take my golf clubs and shopping cart out of my trunk.
     Aliceann was in the kitchen, helping Ed push his arms into his warm down jacket.  It was just like Frank’s, which Ed wore for the first month he was up here.  Aliceann ordered an identical one from the Frank’s LL Bean catalogue.
     “I love this jacket,” Ed said.  “I’m going to take it to Florida with me in case it snows.”  
     “Careful,” he said, as he always did when we got to the end of the driveway.  A car was sitting there, courteously waiting for us to move onto Country Lane.  “Some of these guys go whipping by at 60 miles an hour.” 
     Aliceann agreed that there were a lot of reckless drivers in the neighborhood.  We had gone only half a block when the door next to Ed flew open.  Of course he was wearing his seat belt, but we were all startled.  Aliceann and I got out and took turns trying to slam the door shut.  It made a banging noise but the latch seemed to be broken.   No matter what we did, the door hung open, waving in the breeze.  Ed said he was glad he was wearing his warm jacket because the breeze was freezing.  “My nose is dripping icicles.”   
     I cautiously backed into the next driveway and returned to Kathie’s house.
    “Maybe she’ll know what’s wrong with it,” said Ed.  “Why don’t you go in and get her?”
     “No, she’s with a student and another one is coming.  I don’t want to disturb her.  We’ll go in my car, Aliceann, if you think you can get the wheelchair into the trunk.”

     I unloaded my golf clubs and shopping cart, while Aliceann helped Ed get settled in the front seat and fastened his safety belt.  She folded his wheelchair, turned it sideways, and lifted it into the trunk, where it stuck up and out, no matter which way we positioned it.  The problem was the spare tire, which neither Aliceann nor I felt like grappling with.
     “We’ll have to go ahead slowly with the trunk open,” said Aliceann.
     “Wait a minute, here’s something that may help.” I reached for a straightened-out coat-hanger.  It had come in handy more than once when I locked myself out of my vehicle.  Between us, Aliceann and I were able to partially secure the trunk’s lid, so I could drive at a normal speed.  
     At Uno’s, Ed ordered the crab cakes again, and Aliceann and I had chicken and veggie roll-ups.  Aliceann said it was now or never if she was going to dig a hole in Kathie’s back yard for the ashes of her four deceased pets.  I told her I’d be glad to participate in any ceremony she might want to have.  
     “I’ll probably forget,” she laughed.  “If I do, they’ll just move back to Florida with us.”  The saga of the much-traveled ashes, I mentally dubbed it.

     My contribution to the Malleys’ exodus was to meet Jody Thaxter -- who would be driving their car to Florida—at Blake and Jayne’s old house in Cohasset.  I wasn’t due until 1:30, so I had plenty of time to add several pages to my current writing project, hit the treadmill, haul out my 30-year-old vacuum cleaner (sometimes that was as far as I got because it grows heavier every month), dust here and there, and admire my African violets.  They like the view of the Weymouthport marina, love the glorious sunsets but entreated me to get some potting soil because they needed more root-room.  Thus went the morning of an aging lady living alone and loving every minute except the vacuuming.  And maybe the dusting.  And the violets were lovely, but did they have to be so demanding?
       On my way to collect Jody I got gas for the guzzler at the new exorbitant rate, and made a stop at the liquor store to get some small cardboard cartons for Ed, who mourned about how frustrating it was to be trapped in his wheelchair, unable to help with the packing and truck-loading.  He could  pack small items, like the contents of his desk but told me he needed more boxes.
     When Jody and I arrived in Westwood, the scene was chaotic.  A huge truck was backed up to the front of the apartment, and the driveway was so full of cars, Frank came out to direct me into a grassy area.  Ed and Kathie were sitting on the ramp’s sunny platform, finishing their lunch and watching the dismantling of the apartment.           
      “Look, Mom,” Kathie said, pointing.  I turned and saw that the truck was already full of furniture, the most imposing piece being a sideboard massively stretched midway.  I wondered how Frank and his brother Jake ever managed to hoist it up there.  It was so big that nothing stored behind it was visible.  Jake was in charge of finding spaces for stacks of cartons and large paintings that Frank and Aliceann handed up to him.  One of the cartons included the famous ashes.  When it actually came to burying them, Aliceann couldn’t bear to put them into the cold ground where there was no sign of a real pet cemetery with appropriate commemorative markers. So, like the rest of the family, Strumfe #1 et cetera, would be returning to warmer climes.  
     The front door was blocked, so Ed wheeled around the corner to the side door.  I opened it and tried without success to help him get over the threshold.  “You have to press down on the handles, Mom,” Kathie called.  Pushing the handles down lifted the two front wheels, and a minute later Ed was in his bedroom.  All around us, more chaos reigned.  Big cartons, medium-sized cartons, and Aliceann’s arts and crafts were stacked in every room, including the kitchen.  A few paintings still hung lopsidedly on the walls.  
     I helped Ed zig and zag his way to the bathroom, then spent a few peaceful minutes with Kathie.    She told me her father had said he wanted to come back to Westwood for a month this summer. 
     “To escape the heat, I suppose,” I said. 
     “No, it’s because he wants to see his family again.  He thinks Aliceann would enjoy visiting her mother while he was away.  We’d have him stay in our guest bedroom, since Jake will be in the apartment.  Anyway, I’d want to have him close by, in case he needed help.”
      I heard Ed struggling to get his wheelchair from the kitchen to his study. I cleared a path for him and wheeled him over to his desk.  I showed him the small empty cartons I had brought and he said to put them anywhere I could find a spot.  Aliceann and Frank made trip after trip into the study, transporting Stuff to Jake, who stowed it away in the truck’s “nooks and crannies.”  I noticed that Frank was piling cartons on top of each other, including the empty ones I had just brought.  I figured he was too numb at this point to be making any fine distinctions. This was the first of the two trucks he would be loading.
     The return of the natives is such a complicated process, it is almost impossible to describe, but I’ll try.  Someone was flying up from Florida to drive this truck back to Palm Beach Gardens the next day, and then Jake and Frank would load a second truck that they’d be driving to Florida.
     Ed informed me that he and Aliceann didn’t like the house they were moving into; they could tell from the snapshots that it was too small.  “We’ll be buying a bigger place as soon as we can afford it."
     Frank and Jake and the second truckload left Westwood early Sunday, arrived in Palm Beach Gardens the next night.  Ed and Aliceann and the rest of the menagerie were picked up at 6:00 a. m. this morning and are now soaring through the air to Florida.  Calvin, annoyed at the lack of attention he was getting during the last-minute arrangements yesterday, hid himself for the day, but was part of the flying family.  
     To celebrate the homesteading and give Aliceann a break from cooking, we make six reservations for dinner at Finian’s: Kathie, Frank, Sarah (Kathie’s stepdaughter from her first marriage), Ed, Aliceann, and I.  While Frank and Kathie collect Sarah in Frank’s truck prior to meeting at the restaurant, I pick up Ed and Aliceann.  Sounds simple, and once upon a time it would have been.  Tonight, Aliceann wheels Ed out to the car and helps him grapple with the intricacies of climbing into the passenger seat.  Making myself useful, I put the footrests in the trunk. 
     “Oh dear, I forgot my purse,” Aliceann says, heading back to the house.  
     There sits the wheelchair and there stand I.   Putting one and one together, I see a chance to perform a service for Wife #2.  I have dealt with Kathie’s wheelchair many times -- not easily, as I became older, but willingly.  Wheeling Ed’s chair behind the trunk, I fold it, tilt it sideways, and get a good grip on the wheels and handles.  Puffing a little, I manage to raise it as far as my knees, my face becoming purple, my eyes bugging out in disbelief.  It’s like lifting a concrete block.  If I drop it, the way my body is begging me to, I will fracture both legs. We’d need a third wheelchair.
    With a superhuman effort, I manage to thrust the concrete block over the edge of the trunk.  One last push -- this is like having a baby, for crying out loud -- and the delivery is finally accomplished. 
    Thank God Aliceann is a strong woman because lifting the wheelchair is arduous, even for her.  And yet this is what she has been doing for months now, when she takes Ed to doctors’ appointments or on other errands.   
    At Finian’s Aliceann cuts Ed’s steak for him.  I surreptitiously monitor his progress, or lack of it, as his fork directs each piece toward his eye, his nose, and finally his mouth, opened wide like a baby bird’s.  He has ordered another Margarita, although he never finished the first one. 
    I remember times when I never finished the third, fourth, and fifth martinis that kept popping magically up in front of my plate like crocuses.  Ed, on the other hand, had no difficulty in keeping up with his genial co-carousers.  One Sunday afternoon I couldn’t resist one teensy needle after a bacchanalian Night Before.  I happened to walk into the golf club bar on my way to the ladies lounge when I saw Ed ordering something special from Leo—not a very, very dry martini with two olives, but two aspirin, straight up.  I asked him solicitously if he had a headache.
    He looked at me impassively for a moment, then said, “No, I don’t have a headache.  I just like aspirin.”
    As far as the apartment is concerned, there have been numerous new achievements.  The shower is installed, the new telephone line and separate heating system are functional, and the walls are covered -- literally covered -- with Aliceann’s enormous paintings of cats and tigers, a faun huddling in the woods, galloping horses, flagrant nudes, the most flagrant hanging over Ed’s desk, and numerous other subjects that make every room resemble an art gallery.  Every inch of wall space that is not bedecked with paintings boasts shelves displaying Aliceann’s craft projects, including an exquisite little doll house, fascinating to look at and peer into from every angle and graced with a minuscule squirrel climbing the lamppost outside.  Other shelves have glass cases displaying Ed’s collection of antique toy soldiers, lined up for battle and surrounded by artillery.

     I’m not a big fan of cats, especially in large, intrusive numbers. I’m visiting the newcomers in Westwood.  Ed’s in the bathroom, and I tell Aliceann to go on with her unpacking; I’ll sit and read the newspaper in the living room.  This room is sort of kiddy-corner (kitty-corner?) from the remodeled garage.  You get to it by going through the entryway that serves both Malley couples.  I settle myself on the sofa at the far end of the living room, and one by one those creatures pussy-foot in and prowl around me. They jump from the coffee table to the sofa, stick their heads firmly between me and the newspaper, and make every effort to convince me they deserve more attention than the op ed page.  Peeking into the kitchen to make sure Aliceann can’t see me, I swat at each visitor with the Help Wanted section.  Not one of them budges during our rendezvous; indeed each smiles at me enigmatically.  I don’t know whether they are saying, “You don’t bother me one bit—I enjoy being fanned on such a hot day!” or, “Wait till later when I tell my mom on you.”
     Ed finally wheels out of the bathroom and manages a brave smile of greeting.  That’s what he is, brave, and I’ve told him so.  After leading such an active, exciting life, the highlight of his day is usually when he and Kathie work on the Boston Globe crossword puzzle. 
November, 1999
     Kathie and Frank drive the Malleys to the B.U. Medical Center for Ed’s first visit with his new neurologist.   He is pleased with Dr. Elias, who attends fully to everything Ed has to say and shows little interest in the elaborations provided by the other family members.  The visit is traumatic, nevertheless, because of the difficulty Ed has with various tests the doctor administers.  Mentally, he does reasonably well -- providing his own vital statistics, repeating numbers forward and backward, and recalling major points of a story narrated to him.  Then there’s the balance test.  He staggers a little when Dr. Elias pushes him gently to the right, stumbles a bit when pushed gently to the left, and then nearly falls over backwards, unable to catch himself, when Dr. Elias applies slight pressure to the front of his shoulders.  His difficulty standing and walking is also dramatic, and Aliceann, Kathie, and Frank are all nearly in tears as they watch.  The doctor puts him on a new medication schedule, which may help.
     Another trauma for all of us is how fearful Edward has become.  In his heyday, he ran a small manufacturing plant where he was known to employ everybody, including ex-convicts off the streets who couldn’t get a job anywhere else (and who became loyal employees) and men and women of all races who hadn’t been able to break the color barriers elsewhere. 
     Now, he is nervous whenever a stranger comes to the house, which is at the end of a fairly long driveway, and somewhat isolated.  Recently a truck clearly marked “Direct TV” pulled into the driveway and a man came to the front door.  Frank can hear Ed and Aliceann wondering aloud who it is and what they should do, so he braves the hallway past the barking dogs and answers the door.  It turns out that the man is looking for the next door neighbors, further up the driveway, but wonders if he can come in and clean off his shoes because he has stepped in a dog mess in front of the house.  Seeing Ed and Aliceann’s anxious expressions, Frank says, “I’m sorry, but you better not come in.”  After the fellow heads down the driveway, Frank follows with some newspapers so he can wipe off his shoes.       
     It’s difficult for us to see Edward so apprehensive about everyday events.  This is the man who decided at the age of 47 that he was going to take flying lessons . . .

April 22, 1962
     When Ed got home from his flying lesson, I asked him how he’d done on his cross-country.
     “I was terrible!  I was supposed to go due west to Southbridge, and I figured the course out all right, 282 degrees, but then I put my flight plan away and as we started out I said to Bruce, `Let’s see, 182 degrees, right?  He just grunted, so off we went in the wrong direction.  You’re supposed to use lakes and super-highways and things like that for landmarks but up there everything looks the same.  After about 20 minutes Bruce gave me a poke and said, `What’s that over there?’  I looked and I said, `If it’s a lake, it’s the biggest one I ever saw.’  He said he would guess it was probably either the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean.  He let me fly all the way to Fall River without saying a word, the stinker.  I said, `Bruce, you remind me of the fellow who kept letting his son fall on his head and ended up saying, don’t trust nobody.’  I was mad at him for allowing me to waste all that time.”
     “He probably figures you’ll do better if you learn these things the hard way.  He’s not always going to be up there holding your hand and saying, `Er, Ed, I hate to mention this but you’re a hundred degrees off course.’”
     “I know, I know.  I suppose that’s his theory.  But you have no idea how much harder it is figuring out a course on a plane than on a boat, where you can spread the charts all over the floor.  You’re squidged up in that cramped little space with the charts up around your neck somewhere, and at the same time as you’re jotting down figures, you’re trying to control the plane which is going upwards and downwards and sideways.”
     I must have looked pained, because he grinned and said, “Am I making you feel any more enthusiastic about going up with me this summer?”
     “I can hardly wait,” I said.  “Why don’t you invite that nice Bruce to come along, too?”

May 15, 1991
From letter to my brother, Dick
      I was happy to hear that you liked Take My Ex.  Publishing a book has added a lot of excitement to my life.  I've autographed copies in two bookstores and appeared on a local cable TV program called "Pierson to Person."     
     At first the idea of even giving a newspaper interview was alarming‑‑how could I express myself properly without my computer and Roget's Thesaurus?  But gradually I've begun to relax and enjoy the interviews.  "Pierson to Person" was great fun because the host arranged for Ed and Aliceann to call in halfway through the program, with the Florida Malleys answering questions and making comments from their two telephones.  Both were articulate and funny.  
     Aliceann told the host and his viewers that she calls me from time to time to ask my advice on how to cope with that husband of ours.  It gets her goat when they are out boating and Ed tells her to bring the boat into the wind.
     "I say I don't know where the wind is or how to bring the boat into it."  Then Ed says, `Barbara used to do it,' and I say, `But I'm not Barbara!'"
    "Atta girl," I said into the mike.  "You tell 'im!" 
     Wig has been generous about mentioning my book on his program.  A friend told me she happened to tune into "Pierson to Person" just as Wig was announcing that my book had sold four thousand copies.
     Actually that figure represents the number of copies Little, Brown has distributed to bookstores all over the country.  They printed a total of seven thousand, and of course I'm hoping there will be a second printing.  And yes, dear brother, it would be very exciting if a movie producer became interested in my book. . . .     

No comments:

Post a Comment