Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Alice

She was born in Ecuador in 1926. Her father worked there briefly, for the U.S. government. He delivered her, as the doctor that showed up was too drunk to do so.

Some months later, the family returned to New York, where she contracted encephalitis, and was in a coma for 9 months. This caused a slight loss of use in her left arm and an even slighter speech affect that mellowed over time. When she recovered, she spent much of her time in private schools, or living with her grandparents while her parents travelled the world. In college, she and her sister lived with the mother's cousin's family, a fact that would not be very remarkable except that her mother's cousin was Eleanor Roosevelt, and they lived in the White House. She even dated Mickey Rooney.

At age 19, she rebelled and broke with them all, dropping out of school to marry a handsome sailor she met at a U.S.O. dance. The young couple moved in with his parents, and the next year she gave birth to a daughter, also named Alice. They moved to one of the first homes buit in Levittown, N.Y., where two little brothers and another sister were also born.

When she was 25, she dealt with the illnes and death of her oldest daughter , from a brain tumor. Once again, she became close to her parents and siblings, only to lose her youngest sister to a mental institution, and her mother to cancer. But she held her family together, through moves to California, to Missouri, to New York, and finally settling in Missouri for good. While in California, she had a "change of life " baby, another son.

Her husband died of a heart attack in 1978; her second son died in 2003 of the same thing, at almost the same age. She helped me to raise my children while I worked and went to college, trying to make a better life for them. She gave both my daughters a safe haven at different times while they were rebelling against their father and me. She's 81 years old, and still mows her own lawn, walks 4 miles a day, and avidly follows professional tennis and argues with me periodically about politics. She was once my mother-in-law, but is always my friend.

Happy Birthday, Alice.


Daisy said...

Beautiful post! Wish I had something nice to say about an ex-mother-in-law, but alas! :P

shadocat said...

Thanks Daisy! Yeah, she's a remarkable woman, but as well as we get along, she CAN be exasperating a lot of the time (She also says the same thing about me...)