Thursday, March 21, 2013

Feeling old. Being old. And, writing.

Yesterday, I was feeling old. I shouldn't be. When you have in-laws who are in their 90s – and still cooking meals from scratch (her), talking about a game on TV and understanding every play (him), and doing their own laundry (together) – well, you have built-in reminders about the idea of "old."

And then there's Alice.

Last year, I was working with Alice, a writer on the West Coast, who was 83 years old at the time. She was producing new chapters of her very funny memoir, and I was offering feedback and edits as fast as she could send me her perfectly formatted pages.

There was always an urgency about her, both in her writing, and the way she was attacking her writing life – full ahead, after decades of doing other things. I always hoped some of her energy and momentum might rub off. Besides the memoir, we worked on an essay she eventually read on her local public radio station. And poems she sent off to a contest (she was awarded an honorable mention).

One day, Alice mentioned, in a causal off-handed way, that she wouldn't be back in touch for a week because she was scheduled for a "minor outpatient procedure." Then – silence.  For two weeks. Three. I wrote and rewrote an email, deliberating whether to send it or not, storing it in drafts. I picked up the phone twice, put it back both times.

I didn't want to know, I suppose.

Finally one morning while sipping coffee, computer screen open, I saw something from her email address. Subject line:  Alice

It began, "Hi, this is Alice's son. I thought you should know –

I looked away from the screen, then back.

...that she's had a little setback, but she asked me to send you the attached chapter…"

I prepared comments on Alice's pages, sent them back, and the next week, she was writing me back to ask about a tense shift on page 6.

Yesterday, I thought of Alice. It helped. I felt younger. Or maybe older, but in a good way. And in a big hurry. Full ahead.

9 comments: said...

That's what I love about writing. It gets better with age. Thank you for sharing Alice. What an inspiration!

Karen said...

Lisa, you're not old! This is a sweet story.

ryder ziebarth said...

And I think of my parents, too, doing much the same with no help (refusing help, in fact) at 83 and 86. Mom, my newest facebook friend and Dad still planning road trips for the two of them in Montana this sumnmer.....I saw a sign in billboard in Manhattan yesterday that said, today, a baby is born who might live to be 150. Think of the books I could write! This was a lovely piece, and for a minute I though for sure, Alice had died. I was so on the page with you, line -by-line. And so glad she is still persevering. Wonderful, heartwarming and beautifully writtten.

drew said...

You offer a great reminder of age, ability and opportunity --- all of which are relative. Thanks for the perspective (and for your generous, compassionate spirit).

ElaineLK said...

Lisa, I love this story. As an older "emerging writer" (of 62), I sometimes get discouraged and think I'm too old. But philosophically I believe anyone can accomplish anything at any age. Alice is an inspiration. I'm glad she's well and still writing! I hope I still will be at her age. Thanks for sharing her story.

Michelle Hutchinson said...

So glad that Alice is writing again. :-)She sounds like a wonderful gal.

Darlene Craviotto said...

Lovely, lovely, LOVELY! Alice, and your writing. Thanks for writing this very special post.

Amy Morgan said...

I toast tonight to Alice, for the sheer joy of doing so and the friendship (because, yes, that's what it is besides the working relationship) you've been blessed with. Cheers to you both!

Cindy Dwyer said...

As writers we sometimes get attached to people we only interact with over the web. When their blogs go silent, or their email subscriptions suddenly bounce back, it's sad not knowing what happened.

In this case, it was someone you knew and truly cared about - which made the wondering an agony. I'm glad she is getting back to normal.