Not long ago, I was thinking about a short story my friend Claudia wrote about a train ride she took to see her son in Pittsburgh. The reason I was thinking about this story is because I remember reading it to my mother on a visit to her when she was living with my sister.
My mother was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease later in life. During our visits, I would play classical music and opera for her and read her stories. For some reason I decided to read her Claudia’s story even though I took it on the trip with me to read for myself. My mother, for whatever reason, was absolutely captivated by this story . She sat on the edge of her seat leaning towards me with this look on her face of complete fascination. Every once in awhile she would say THAT’S AMAZING or I NEVER IMAGINED THIS or some other similar exclamation. I have no idea what my mother was hearing or imagining, but she seemed very content and happy and engaged by this story. It made me wonder all kinds of things about people with dementia that we ‘feel bad for’. They may have a much more rich interior life than we could ever know. Certainly they are not aware of any particular issues on a broader scale, which in and of itself would make anyone happier. Anyway, I digress. Because I was thinking of this story, I found myself making a picture of it in my sketchbook (below).
Now this little scene above is far from reality. First of all, at the time, my mother was in her late eighties. Of course, I was a grown up but depicted myself much smaller than my mother because, to our parents, we are always children. My sister did keep our mom’s hair short for ease of care so that is accurate as is the purple shirt. My mom seemed to have a lot of purple shirts. The image of the steam engine is a stretch since this train trip that my friend took occurred in 2013, not 1913. But I do feel I captured my mother intently listening to this story; hands on face in awe and her mouth slightly ajar.
Actually, I do not remember my mother reading to me. She didn’t have time; working all day and cooking for who knows how many people every night. But I do remember her telling me stories and she had quite a lively imagination. She would tell me that she was not my mother, that she was my mother’s twin sister Josephine and my actual mother was off on a secret spy mission in another country. Me, being somewhat of a jackass, believed her.
Anyway, back to my trip to visit my mother, I did do an actual sketch of Mom while she was napping in a chair sitting out back. It is a much more accurate depiction of my mother at that time, though I think within herself she felt more like the image above. Maybe she was dreaming about her adventures as a spy in a foreign country.