Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Paintings to Remember

We drove up to Haliburton, in central Ontario, on Sunday to visit my mother who is in the hospital there at the moment.

She is doing as well as can be expected, I guess. She is suffering from dementia as well as a series of small strokes. These have left her left side weak. She cannot walk anymore. She slipped in and out of reality while we were there. In her lucid moments she was funny and bright, her old self, but in her cloudy moments she could not follow a conversation and kept asking unrelated questions. Her hand are gnarled by arthritis. Her fingers weak and twisted. She kept reaching up and holding her head, as if she could push her brain into submission and send signals to the rest of her body. It was useless. She even had trouble holding a spoon and feeding herself.

But those arthritic hands had once held a paint brush. Canvas and oils were her medium. In her spare moments she had created some beautiful paintings. I am lucky to possess a few of her works. My sisters and brother have many more. She lived in 'cottage country' and painted the world around her. The old homes and barns.

The trees and rocks of the Haliburton Highlands. The flora and fauna in her world.

I have no words to describe how I feel today. The long drive up and back took a toll on me. Physically I am exhausted. The sights and smells of a hospital are not what I associate with the gorgeous countryside of Haliburton. It was a very stressful visit for all of us, but especially for my kids. They had not expected to see their grandmother in the state she was in. I know it was a shock for them. Nothing could have prepared them for the sight of their Oma, slumped over in a reclining chair, covered in a tattered flannel sheet, sitting in the hall outside the nursing station. It was a shock for me too. That's why I have taken photos of the paintings that hang in our home.

I know that aging is a natural part of life, but right now it seems unfair. Her paintings are a better way to remember the contribution she made to our lives.


Exuberant Color said...

It is hard to see a once capable person now unable to take care of themselves. It is good to have remberences of her in her paintings as I'm sure she put herself into them just like we do with our quilts.

Vicki said...

I feel your pain Hetty and know it well since my mom is in a nursing home also suffering from dementia. My mom is at the point where she has difficulty caring on conversations and for the most part they are 1 or 2 word sentences. She also lives in her own little world unknown to us because when she does have something more to say it doesn't make much sense.

Growing old shouldn't be this painful and frustrating for our loved ones nor for their families. They have given so much in their lives that it would be ever so nice that in their so called "golden years" they at least could enjoy some happiness.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Hetty.

the dutch purple rabbit said...

I'm happy you made the trip. I hope you recover soon of the long sitting.
The paintings are very lovely and since i visit finland i feel the fresh air that coming of it.


John said...

Thanks for reminding me of what a skilled artist Oma is. It is hard to see someone with such talent begin to lose so much of their abilities. Growing old often seems so unfair.

Barb said...

You have me all choked up....the paintings are so beautiful. My heart goes out to you....it is so hard to see those we love so frail and weakened by the years. Truly, those paintings are awesome...do you have her talent?

Opal said...

i'm so sorry hetty, for the pain you're going through. the paintings are indeed beautiful and a wonderful way to remember her when she was healthy. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

I can't add anything further than what others have said. Your in my thoughts.

Pat said...

My eyes are teary after reading this. I lost my mom 20 years ago next month......she died a fairly drawn-out cancer death. I know, firsthand, that it is hard to see our parents rather helpless. We know our world has forever changed. Please do just what you did here....hold onto the happy memories and remember her then..... and just be there for her whenever you can....as hard as it is.

quiltmom said...

It is a difficult thing to find the parent that you love having so many difficulties copeing with daily life.
My mother in law has Alzheimers and now lives in a care facilty. It is very hard to see the changes-
Like your mother, she painted and was a brilliant talented woman. It is good to remember her gifts- We miss what she was and are gradually coming to terms with the challenges she faces in the last years of her life. We are comforted by the fact that she is in a safe caring environment. She is comfortable and well liked by the staff who provide for her daily needs.
My heart goes out to you and yours - My father in law once said that growing old was not for wusses- he certainly had that right.

Reddirt Woman said...

You can tell she loved to paint. Beautiful colors. My mom didn't know me or my sibs the last year of her life. It was very hard on me that my momma didn't know who I was. She enjoyed visiting and I felt like deep down she knew I and my sibs belonged there talking and visiting with her.

It is one of those very, very hard things to have to deal with and go through.


nicolette said...

Thanks for showing your mothers paintings. They are gorgeous and a wonderful way to have her around you.

We all wish our (Grand)mothers live happy lifes to the end, but as they get older and older their bodies and minds tend to give up. To witness them going through dementia is a difficult thing. I can imagine the trip and visit must have been exhausting for you, but I’m sure you will feel good to have been with her for a while. Hold on to the lovely memeories!

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

I trade with a gal that is a painter. I make a quilt and she paints a painting for me. It is the best thing to share talents. I love paintings with homes. They speak to me.

Catherine said...

It is so incredibly difficult to watch a beloved parent or grandparent unable to communicate or deal with basic functions. Your mother's paintings really are quite lovely.

Rinie said...

I have one if the first paintings your mother made. A colourful bunch of flowers. It has been hanging in my kitchen for years. I look at the flowers and send them to her in my thoughts.
Keep strong, Hetty.
We, your relatives, are feeling your pain and together we will always be there for you.