Izzy's Archive

Marion: “Izzy, I had a tough day.”

Friday, August 1st, 2008



Marion and Izzy

Marion and Izzy


August 1,2008 – Hot, sticky. Marion and Izzy have a routine now. We go into her room, and Izzy lies on the bed, and Marion strokes his paws and talks to him. The bond between them is palpable, the strongest yet I have seen between Izzy and a human. He seems rapt about her stories, and listens to them for a long time.
  “Izzy, I had a rough day,” she told, relating a day of headaches, discomfort and restlessness. “Izzy, I got in Dutch,” she said. What happened, I asked, getting close – she has trouble hearing. “Well, I was having breakfast and there was an accident, and some of my pudding landing on the nasty man who sits in the corner, and is mean to everyone.” 
  Was it an accident, I asked? Well, yes, she said, of course, but some people thought it wasn’t, although the man had been yelling at her friends. And to tell the truth, it had happened once before. “Izzy, I wouldn’t spill pudding on you, not ever. You are a wonderful dog.”
  Izzy, she added, did I tell you that my husband’s name was Horace, but he was much better than the name? And I loved him and miss him very much, and he was a very good man.
   And his father was named Roscoe, poor man, and he was a Roscoe. And then she told Izzy how you train calves to take milk, slowly and laboriously and patiently, and it was so complex, raising these baby cows, that I couldn’t keep track of it, but Marion had not forgotten any part of the process.
  Don’t go tossing any pudding around,  Marion, I said when I left. You’ll get in “Dutch.” and she smiled a mischievous smile at me. “I wouldn’t ever,” she said.


 We crossed the hall to see Edith, but she had a bad headache and waved Izzy away. We saw our girlfriend Jo, with whom we danced the other night, and she lit up when she saw me. “Hey, cutie,” she said, “you wanna get married?”
  I don’t know, I said. I am married. “I don’t care,” she said. “We can go dancing, every Friday and Saturday night, just like I used to. You wouldn’t believe it, but I used to go square dancing in Shushan every single Friday and Saturday night.
  I believe it, I said. You’re pretty cute yourself. And cheeky. Usually they fuss over the dog.

On the edge of life, with Izzy

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Marion: “Izzy, have I told you…?”

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008


When Marion talks to Izzy, she holds his paw, and closes her eyes, and he lays completely still, for the longest time, and it is almost disconcerting to see a border collie lie like that. And the stories pour out of her like water from a pristine, sparkling spring.

  “Izzy, have I told you that we used to have a farm? And we used to have a good dog named Scout, but he was not a dog like you. I can talk to you, and I can tell you about my life, and my children. They call me often, and that may be them calling now. Can you hear the phone ringing? I can’t see all that well, Izzy, and my hearing has failed, but I am after all, 97 years old. But I see you and hear you and feel you here. What do you do when you aren’t here, Izzy? Where do you go?  Oh, my family would love you. My daughter loves you and my son would so love you, and my husband would too. And I love you.”


 Izzy and I went to Washington County Hospice offices today to do paperwork, under the supervision of Keith Mann, who is meticulous about paperwork, as he is about all things, and then we went to a nursing home in Ft. Edward and we saw Lila, who lay still in a wheelchair, staring ahead. And Izzy came up and put his head on her knee and she looked down at him, every so subtly, and then stared at him and didn’t move or speak. And after some minutes, I leaned over and asked her if she wanted us to come back, and she nodded her head up and down, ever so slightly.

Hospice Journal (2): Inner lights

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

July 29, 2008 – I am much affected by my hospice work with Alzheimer’s patients. It is so different than I expected. I resisted it, to be honest, and didn’t really want to spend that much time with people who were losing control of their minds, as that is especially frightening and disturbing to me.
  I did it, but it was perfunctory, and I was uncomfortable. I remembered thinking once that these wards were filled with deranged ghosts, shells. That is not so, and I see that now, and am grateful that this  shallow notion was changed.
  Everyone in hospice lives on the edge of life, often isolated and struggling with so many realities and decisions. 
  But people with this disease are sometimes isolated in an especially visceral and lonely way, as it is so easy to leave them off by themselves. Nobody should die alone, but sometimes, the loneliness in this ward is something you can put your hands on.
  But in the Alzheimer’s ward, which is familiar to me now and a very comfortable place to visit, I feel as if I am moving through a sea of spirits, some angry, some fearful, some loving and rich. They are very happy to see Izzy and I, and reward us with much love and attention. In all of hospice work, there is this feeling of deep appreciation, and that is the payoff, really. You never feel more appreciated, anywhere in your life, no matter what you do. In Alzheimer’s work, this appreciation is almost never stated, but it is felt.
  I watch the nurses, who make little money, and work hard, and who project a loving and energetic affection that is inspiring to me. They know how to get through.
 You can get through if you want to get through, and you just have to believe you can. These people know me now, clearly, and they surely know Izzy. I have a bunch of girl friends, and they love attention and are affectionate and generous, and when I punch in the codes  – doors are aways locked – it is with a sense of anticipation, relief, exhaustion,  moving from one reality to another. It is hard work. It is worth it.
  The people I meet there have rich stories to tell, of their homes, their children, their husbands and wives, their dogs and memories. These stories come out in different ways, and you really have to listen, and react. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work, sometimes it does.
  I believe in stories, they are my life in a way, and I know that they are everywhere, in all of us. Especially on the edge of life, where they are important in a particular way.

Izzy and Marion, falling in love

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Izzy and Marion (3), falling in love

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Izzy and Marion – falling in love

Sunday, July 27th, 2008