Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lady Bird

Look at this woman, talking one of her 3 nieces, Barbara in Washington, this evening. She was born in April 1920. As her friend Una said yesterday, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her. She has never had cancer or heart problems. Her feet give her a bit of trouble, she has to wear awkward orthotics, and she was diagnosed with macular degeneration in one eye which never amounted to anything. Her brain is phenomenal; I have taken 9 typed pages of notes about the family's past, including the addresses of various of her grandparents in Northampton in the twenties. She prides herself on her speed with the daily word jumble in the newspaper and is off tomorrow to win again at Scrabble. It's clear I must always depart BS - Before Scrabble.

Yes, there was as always some pretty gross stuff in her fridge that had to be dealt with, and there are often crumbs on her sweater, and she's more frail than before and does forget things. She's fiercely independent and stubborn - won't accept help unless it's strictly necessary. When we got to Ikea, I asked if she wanted a wheelchair, to make those miles of corridors easier. Oh no, she said, brandishing her cane. I don't want to start that kind of thing.

Today I took her to the movies, which is another of our regular treats. Last time disastrously - the only British film out was the Harry Potter spinoff about fantastical beasts, which turned out to be very loud and incomprehensible to her. Today we went to see "Lady Bird," which has had uniformly good reviews and was in a movie theatre nearby with reclining chairs - extremely comfortable, so much so that Do slept through most of the film. But she didn't understand much anyway, the story of a teen coming of age in 2002 in Sacramento. I loved it; it's spare, beautifully written and acted and directed, haunting. It showed once more one of the most important lessons I tell my classes - the more we tell our own small story with depth and passion and skill, the more others will see themselves in our tale. This is the story of one girl growing up a bit, and yet somehow it's about all families, the flawed love of parents for their children and vice versa, the desperate need of teenagers to figure out who they are and make their independent mark. It made me ache. Every family I saw for hours after seemed to be in the movie.

And then back to Do's for an improvised dinner and more typing as she talked about OUR family. I will miss her.


  1. There is such a family resemblance Beth; she's an amazing woman.

  2. Thank you! I can only hope to have her genes - my dad died at 65, but Mum at 89, so perhaps I'm more Leadbeater than Kaplan, at least, in some ways. What's amazing about Do is that though she was always anxious and fearful, she's becoming more joyful and open as time goes by, and our friendship gets better. It's a great joy for us both. Too bad I live so far away.