my mother

Frances at lunch

Frances at lunch

Santa Monica, California.

I haven’t been able to get and post recent shots of my now 100 + year old mother because it’s tough to get her to open her left eye (she’s nearly blind in it) and she’s been sick. So, the past few trips out here to LA haven’t been fruitful for mom portraits. I managed to sneak one in at lunch yesterday.

Frances is 100 today

Frances is 100 today

Los Angeles, California.

I’m in LA for my mother’s 100th birthday and while she’s definitely not as with it as she was a month ago, she’s still with it enough to know it’s her birthday. We have a small group coming over to celebrate and I’ll give each of them one of the albums I made for her.

100 years old. Wow, it’s quite an amazing thing and tough to wrap one’s mind around.

My mother plays anagrams

My mother plays anagrams

Los Angeles, California.

My 99 year old mother has been slowly declining for many years now. In her prime she and my late father played a game with other couples called “anagrams.” My parents were so good at this game that they never took the same side, it was usually men against women. The game didn’t come in a box and I’m sure they took an existing game and re-wrote its rules to suit themselves. It was over 100 tiles with letters on them, like scrabble tiles with no numbers. They honed the set based on letter frequency in words: 10 of the letter “E” and 1 of the letter “Z” etc.

The game they played was simple: turn all the letters face down, mix them up, then start turning them over. Here’s an example of how it went:

Turn over letter 1: “A”

Turn over letter 2: “T”

Whoever says the word “AT” first gets it for their team.

Turn over letter 3: “P”

Whoever says the word “PAT” first gets it for their team.

You can make new words out of the loose letters or use the loose letters to change any words already made, either yours or your opponent’s.

No proper names, words have to be in the dictionary (they had two book dictionaries on the table) and unlike my example above, they played with a rule that words had to be 5 letters long.

My father died in 2000 and my mother hasn’t touched this game since. Know that my mother, who is in the throws of serious dementia now, has a BA in English from NYU and was an editor at Viking Press and proofed many of John Steinbeck’s books (she knew him). In other words, she was and in some respects still is literate. She was also an extremely fast thinker and while my father was a very literate guy as well, my mother was the “one.”

Her old anagrams set was so broken down that it was impossible to use, and the tiles are too small for her to see now, so I made her a set of laser-printed tiles that I laminated to make them more durable. I made exactly the same set that they played with (same number of each letter).

We let go of the 5 letter word rule and once I got her going on it she came out of her dementia and started really cooking, using up all the letters making a variety of words, some complex with complex changes that blew my mind.

My mother’s helper, Marta had no idea my mother had this in her and her jaw dropped when she saw my mother in action.

Know that my mother cannot see all the words in front of her but I read them and from memory she used loose letters to alter them in creative ways. Most of us would need to see the words to work on anagrams, she was able to do the reconstructions in her head.

I only wish I’d started her on this sooner as she really enjoyed it and it’s a great brain exercise for her.

Moral: it’s not just about physical exercise, it’s also about cognitive exercise: Ya gotta keep your noggin working to keep your noggin working.

My mother is 99!

My mother is 99!

Japanese Garden, Van Nuys, California. Yesterday, May 26, 2014 my mother had her 99th birthday. I took some great group shots of the wonderful family and friends who came over for her party, but in each one she was dozing off. So, this picture of her from today on our regular outing to this wonderful garden will do.

She’s almost blind in one eye, can’t walk at all on her own anymore and she’s fading into dementia but she’s still with it enough to tell me “enough with the pictures already!”

Frances at 98.6

Frances at 98.6

Los Angeles, California. This was taken at lunch on my last trip to LA three weeks ago. I’ll be there again this sunday for her 99th birthday. She’s definitely fading; dementia is setting in, but at this age I’m glad she still knows me. Marta (her helper) and I think she consciously chooses to tune in and out of conversations, using dementia as a resting place to fall back on.

Marta and Frances

Marta and Frances

Descanso Gardens, Flintridge, California. There’s something about this garden that’s very nice: lots in bloom, well maintained but not too formal, and plenty of trees to keep it cool and shaded which makes for better photography.

My almost 99 year old mother was tired so I didn’t push her to take her sunglasses off. Her helper, Marta is an amazing woman who has made it possible for my mother to continue living comfortably at home.

My mother is 98 today

My mother is 98 today

Los Angeles, California. Out to LA yet again, this time for my mother’s 98th birthday. Took a quick snapshot of her last night with the Ricoh GR in case I didn’t get anything good today (so far I haven’t although not for lack of trying).

She’s doing amazingly well for 98; went to a great Gary Baseman show at The Skirball Cultural Center today and we’re going out to dinner tonight.

Shooting flowers at Descanso Gardens

California poppies

Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge, California. Trying the Sony RX1 out on a group of flowers with a slight breeze. It was cool out so the poppies were closed up but the colors were vivid and there were plenty of unopened buds to shoot. It was tough to get into a group of flowers like this with the RX1’s 35mm lens to get closeups and I longed for my longer macro lenses of years past.

California poppies

Messing with some wide open, shallow depth of field shots with the RX1. It’s going to take some time to learn to use a 35mm lens to do these kinds of images, I’m used to shooting them at 100mm or longer.

California poppies

California poppies

California poppies

Frances smelling a rose

My mother enjoyed these gardens quite a bit. The problem is there are few paved paths and pushing a wheelchair on dirt can be tiring. And, the day we were there it was cool so my mother kept nagging me to hurry up and take my ####ing pictures because she was freezing.