Alice was my 86-year-old mother-in-law. Her last year of life was my first year of retirement, and that made us a kind of alpha-omega duo. Maybe omega and pre-omega is a better description. Either way, we were both groping.

As she lost her mind to dementia and her body to cancer in a nearby assisted-living facility, she took me on an intimate daily tour of frail old age – that place that is not for sissies, the place much of American culture chooses to erase from the consciousness because it’s not about trim gray-haired people playing tennis and golf in an active adult retirement community. It’s about dying. And Alice taught me that it’s also very much about living….