Posts Tagged ‘Art Therapy’

Most y’all know I’m surrounded by various and sundry bodies of water, so the challenge of finding a unique reflection to share was even more of a challenge. Rather than evoke a widespread, involuntary yawning response by posting another water-related picture, I found a different sort of reflection I wanted to share with you.

This photo is a reflection of my eighty-eight year old mother, who was diagnosed last year with mixed dementia. She conked her coconut on the money-machine of a CTA bus in Chicago a couple of years ago, after an errant pedestrian darted in front of the bus and the bus driver stopped suddenly, propelling my about-to-deboard-mother, forward toward the front of the bus.

She remembers the riders going, “Ooooooooh,” as she hit. Then, as if once wasn’t enough, the bus lurched a second time, launching my mother yet again into the Tower of Tokens, prompting a twice-as-loud “”Ohnoooooo!!” from the passenger peanut gallery.

The tearful driver, seeing his job flash before his eyes, apologized like all get-out, but my stubbornly independent mother insisted she was fine and got off the bus and valiantly crossed six lanes of traffic and two loading lanes to get to her uppity condo down the street from where Oprah lives.

Two hours later she sat at home afraid to get up as something slowly passed through her forehead, like a clot, afraid she’d kill herself if she moved, realizing something was terribly wrong. The clot passed, but minutes melded into hours and hours to days, and before long, her prefrontal cortex defied her, and suddenly it wasn’t so funny anymore when Grandma couldn’t find her glasses when they were right there atop her head.

The “mixed” part of the diagnosis undoubtedly comes from the fact that she was a writer, and had to write everything – compulsively. Writers beware, if you do NOT get it out, it will overtake your brain – you MUST write! Else it clogs your neural arteries, mark my word. And hers. She put a lot of stuff out there, published and unpublished, but if the every-square-inch-covered envelopes and scratch papers I’m having to sort through in her storage are any testimony, please, friends, just WRITE! Put it out there! Don’t let it take over your brain.

Mom began to lose track of bills, the credit card fell out of the purse God-knows-where, medication became a blur whether or not it was taken and ultimately she began to wither because it simply became too much trouble to get to the store to buy groceries – in typical Scarlett O’Hara fashion, even meals became something “I’ll worry about tomorrow…”

As the illness began to suffocate her sense of independence, she ran away from her diagnosis and decided to settle here with the rest of the elderly snowbirds who frequent this climate, if for no other reason than to buy herself a fraction of time before various authorities were about to declare her officially incompetent.

Her plan worked, she still signs her own checks, and even though she needs a tad of assistance discerning whether she’s coming or going on any given day, she still knows that a day with her toes in the sand sipping a cool iced tea in a 76 degree December day is better than any rat race she was running from in the icy city from which she fled.

She is also learning to appreciate SEC winners in collegiate football (ahem!), Jimmy Buffetisms and my personal favorite, How To Drive With The Windows Down and the Music Very Up.

A practitioner and believer in art therapy, I set about one day recently by trying to connect with her through paintbrush and canvas. We did an exercise in collaborative creation – she made a stroke, I made a stroke, turn-taking until we both felt it was finished. The rule is, the paintbrush can only touch the canvas once, be it swoop, sweep or dot, then it’s the other person’s turn. When finished, each stands back, admires, and offers their interpretation. This was what the canvas reflected of her mind:

Reflections of Dementia

I asked her to go first in the interpretation. I was unable to follow her with my own, speechless, I was.

I had splotched the grassy patch at the left because I love green, and when I see green, I can’t resist orange or pink, and I didn’t have orange on the palette, so I mixed red and white to get pink and dabbed when it was my turn. I still can’t say what I was thinking; her interpretation overshadowed any cause for pause on my part.

She said, “I screwed up the circle at the top and the more I blobbed, the worse it got and the more it began to look like an eye. And the more it began to look like an eye, I realized I had painted my face…but I only have half a face left because the dementia has robbed me of the rest. I only have half my head left. The rest is slipping, flying, dragging me into the grave, the green grassy spot below. And you planted flowers…”

We wept and hugged.

Some of my best memories of my mother, as she slowly departs in the cruelest of ways, have been captured in the reflections of her departure.

God, thank You for making us rich in the face of cognitive poverty. Truly, You elevate the lowest, strengthen the weakest and bring new life to the dying. Thank You for reflecting Yourself in our trials.

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