Every Tuesday about 1:00 pm the screen on my iPhone lights up. MOM appears in silvery letters.
I scheduled this about five years ago to remind me that her painting class would begin soon.
I should probably remove it but love to see it—that glowing word MOM. Perhaps it’s a bit ghoulish but I love it. I feel close to her again.
It also reminds me of how much I loved going to her classes. First to see what wondrous painting she had created the previous week. It was also important.
I took her to the class and the timing was tricky. If I took her too soon she would ask, with some suspicion, What are we doing here?
We’re going to paint, I would say with enthusiasm.
She would look at me in disbelief. I don’t do this, she would tell me pointedly as she got up and walked away. (She considered painting a childish waste of time.)
I had to time it just as everyone was arriving and sitting down. Then she was happy to join them. We’d check out the still life in the middle of the table. She would sit through the opening remarks though she couldn’t hear a thing, waiting. As soon as the instructor would put paint on paper, she’d would pick up her brush and begin to hum. The painting just flowed.
When she was done, she was done—always earlier than the others. She would leave but sometimes she would come back and ask if she could join them. Two paintings—two versions of the same model. Sweet.
I’m sure that Mom’s hidden talent only emerged because of dementia. Her internal censor collapsed releasing what must have always been there. My niece Anna, a professional artist, would look at Mom enviously. I wish I could paint like that.
So it’s like Picasso said. It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael but a lifetime to paint like a child.
Once I stayed to paint with her and found myself nearly paralyzed with self-conscious doubt.
Mom is so much better that I am, I remember thinking.
Give it time. One day I expect I too will be able to paint, just like Mom.