Friday, April 17, 2009

I don't know if any of you remember Alice. Last year, whilst out walking with my kiddos looking for something cool to take a picture of, I saw her and her buddy Jimmy chatting in her front yard. They looked interesting; an old woman with a cat and a disheveled man with a shopping cart. I asked if I could take a picture. Looking back now, I am amazed she ever

let me take a picture of her. But I took that picture and in turn she invited me into a life of decay. She was old, lonely, and bitter. Over the next few months, I spent hours with her. She told me how bad the world was. She told me that the government was full of liars; no one had ever really been to the moon. She told me she had witnessed a murder. Her daughter died at nine months. "No one can do what God does, and no one can undo what God does." She babysat a baby whose mother gave him beer in his bottles. Her heart was full of darkness and pain, and she seemed to somehow want that. Since her husband had died 20 years ago, she had not done any home improvement. She bathed and did wash rarely (probably since, as I later found out, there was no way for her to get in her bathroom, which was in such a bad state of repair that the bathtub had sunken into the floor and there was no running water anyway. Umm, yeah, I don't know where she did that either.....). But somehow, I loved her. Maybe because I felt really sorry for her. Maybe because I thought she might have somehow been different if she had been born in a better circumstance. Maybe because I have always had a lot of compassion for the elderly. I don't even know why, but that I really came to love Alice. I left for the summer, and though I had promised to call her, I never did. When we moved back here last August, I went to go visit her again. She wasn't there, which was weird, because she hadn't left her yard in over 10 years. I went back the next day, and luckily there came Jimmy pushing his shopping cart. Alice was in the hospital. She had fallen; her kidneys were failing from an overdose of aspirin. I went to the hospital to see her, and she told me how relieved she was to see me. She had worried about me all summer and she was miserable. She said she felt fine and just wanted to go home. She may have lost some strength, but she sure didn't lose any of her venom. She was bitter as ever, and angry. I felt so bad for the many nurses who she would cuss out everyday that I visited. Still I went to her faithfully. I met dear friends who also did whatever they could to help this family-less woman. But she didn't want help. She wanted control. She loved me because I am a push-over. She would tell me what she needed, and I would do it. An old woman should have her way, right? Suddenly Alice got very sick. They called me one night. She was dying. I went to her and cried over her failing body. My mom had died only 2 months earlier and my grief was still deep and painful. But Alice didn't die. She told me later, "Heaven was too full, and the devil was afraid I would take over." The doctors couldn't explain the miracle; an infection had invaded her body and it was shutting down, but two days later she was cussing out the nurses again. I visited Alice everyday. Dallas took care of the kids, but the strain was too great on our family. Alice had started blaming me for things and yelling at me. "Why don't you just leave me alone?" And so I did, even though she called me again and again telling me that I was like her daughter and she needed me. She did need me, but so did my sweet babies and my husband. I stopped answering her calls. I couldn't do it anymore. Now that we are moving, I decided I would apologize to her and give us all some closure, but she won't have it. She wants nothing to do with me. She was unable to return home due to its horrible condition and social services keeping an eye on her, so I snuck over and took some last pictures of her house. I was inspired by the Sea Wolf song, "Black Dirt." You should listen to it.