Will I be forgotten?

Three years ago this month, I sat on the edge of my mothers bed as she recovered from hip replacement surgery. It was supposed to be a speedy recovery and they said she’d be back to her normal self within six weeks.

But almost immediately after I got her back to her home, I noticed something was different.

She seemed to be a little more forgetful and confused than normal.

But the changes went from gradual to changes you could not miss: She had three serious falls in early 2019, one that included a head injury.

But even then, she was still maintaining her home, going to church, painting, etc.

It was not until I received a call from my aunt asking about a painting my mother had been paid for but had not delivered. When I asked how long ago the woman had paid mom for the painting, I expected my aunt to say a few weeks. I did not expect her to say: one year.

My mother has been an artist for most of her life, and for my entire life. So for someone to say that she did not deliver on a painting she was paid for, it concerned me. That’s how I knew something was going on in her brain.

Within a few months we found an assisted living community for her near my home and moved her here in December of 2019.

I made sure to bring a couple of her original paintings with me when we set up her apartment, and as I hung one of them she asked me: Will I be forgotten?

At first I thought she was talking about if she would be left at her community and forgotten by her family.

But she said “No. Now that I am here and I am sick, no one will see my artwork anymore. I will be forgotten.”

As much as I wanted to assure her that she would not be forgotten and that somehow, people would still see her artwork even though she was living in an assisted living facility, I couldn’t. So I just brushed over her comment and did not mention it again. There would certainly be time to exhibit again, right?

Enter the pandemic.

My mother was diagnosed with Covid in May of last year, and luckily did not have any symptoms. But I do believe that it exasperated her Parkinson’s. I believe if she had not been diagnosed with COVID-19, she would still be well. Maybe that’s just a dream. But it certainly makes my heart feel better.

But even after a global pandemic, I should have known this was not the end of my mother story.

Orphaned at 10

A wife and mother at 17

A grandmother at 34 (she can thank me for that!)

Countless job changes

We often focus on the negatives, but let’s think about all the great things my mother has contributed to this world.

She raised not only her own two children but her siblings, her grandchild, and countless others.

Her paintings have been exhibited around the world, some are even hanging now in places they will hang forever as long as the building is still standing. How many people can say that?

A few weeks ago, staff at her community heard about her artwork and contacted me to ask if they could arrange a small, one day exhibit of her original art. I asked if I could instead make color copies of the artwork so it could stay up longer. They agreed.

Yesterday, my mother arrived to a room filled with her peers from her community. People she had shared meals with, activities, and outdoor time for the past 18 months were now seeing another side of her.

As they wheeled mom into the space, everyone cheered! They toasted her with non-alcoholic apple cider, and even shared hot appetizers.

I did a VERY informal artist talk about a few of the paintings, and then I asked the audience to choose their favorite.

And although they ranged in ages from their 50s to their 80s, all colors, married and single, parents of tons of youngins and people who never had children- many of them chose the same painting out of the 30 that were on exhibit.

What was the painting?

“Don’t make a mess!” The painting that is third from the left of the children making a mess at bathtime.

It was so wonderful to see the residents of Mom’s community (who probably thought their days of experiencing fine art were over) standing with their apple cider and chatting with friends.

And isn’t that what life is all about, especially post-pandemic? The little things.

And we always have countless opportunities to celebrate each other if we only take the time to notice.

I am so grateful for Deb and Taylor!

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