If you listen to the ladies of Assisted Living chatting, you might think that they are not really saying much or even anything at all. To our linear minds maybe…but if you put your expectations aside and take the time to really listen, you will find that they take utter delight in each others company.
I was walking with Mom down the hallway yesterday and we encountered Joyce. Mom began chatting in her cheerful, dynamic way and Joyce was holding her little stuffed dog Gus at attention. I’m not really sure what the conversation was about but they were clearly having a wonderful time.
All three of them.
This is a painting of bubbles by another artist in Mom’s class.
The circle of painters in Mom’s class gets bigger every week and some of the art is as staggering to me as Mom’s was when she began painting six years ago. And like Mom’s work, they need to be seen. They so powerfully counter the narrative of loss and sorrow so prevalent in the media.
To that happy end, I’m developing an art exhibit that will do just that. Change the Way We Think about Alzheimer’s—One Painting at a Time
To tell a different story about Alzheimer’s and dementia—illuminating the simple truth that those with AD are Still Here—living lives of dignity, creativity and joy.
To generate awareness and support for the many programs that are making Seattle a Dementia Friendly City
Every week I’m going to share one of these wonderful paintings. The first is by Sue. The model—bubbles.
The women of the Assisted Living painting class certainly take art seriously.
They took their places around the table. For each there were small pots of yellow and gold paint. The painting proceeded quietly enough until the color red was introduced.
“Red!” shouted one. “That’s a terrible idea! These are completely different colors. They don’t work together! It’s a terrible idea!” She looked glumly around the table—clearly disappointed with the poor decision to use red.
And then they introduced blue. “Blue!” she wailed—incredulous. “This is worse than red! Horrible, horrible! Don’t use it!” she warned. “It won’t work! It will ruin your painting. Awful!” She sat there shaking her head, staring at me mournfully.
Mother painted away, humming and focused on her work.
But it is kind of wonderful to see such passion for painting.
Very exciting! Read about Mom in the AgeWise King County Newsletter and enjoy the fabulous film about Mom by Charlie Watts and William Thompson.
Changing the Way We Think about Alzheimer’s—One Painting at a Time
To read the entire article visit http://agewisekingcounty.org/en/148/1/997/Changing-the-Way-We-Think-about-Alzheimer%27s%E2%80%94One-Painting-at-a-Time.htm
We hear a lot about Alzheimer’s and dementia these days. Almost always, the stories are depressing—sometimes terrifying. Visions of a demented fog without dignity or meaning. Those with the disease spoken of in the past tense—empty shells where someone used to be.
Not surprisingly, most of us tend to turn away as fast as we can. I was one of them.
And then Mom began to paint.
Her art invited me in … past the fear. One look at her beautiful paintings and you can immediately see a mind at work—lively, inventive and full of life.
Slowly I began to discover that Mom and thousands like her are still here—living lives of dignity, creativity and joy.
Mom was a bit faded today. But she compensated for her loss of energy and cognition—perhaps triggered by the stress of attending a family gathering away from the familiar surroundings of Assisted Living—with her glorious spirit. We laughed and sang and had a wonderful time.
As I left I received two more gifts. Phyllis was standing int he hallway and I gave her a hug. To my delight, she put her arm around me and hugged me back…and wouldn’t let go. Next I saw Flora. “Ciao, Bellissima!” I sang and gave her a hug and a kiss. “I would like to kiss you,” she said. “I would be honored,” I replied. And I was.
What wonderful women. All of them sweet and loving. They may be faded but if you are patient and present, you will find that they still have gifts to bestow.
Happy New Year everyone. From Mom and me.
The model for the painting—a pink poinsettia.