This mixed media piece was to be my entry in an upcoming art show.
It was also a challenge to myself to integrate poetry with paint. In some way, it was a homage to my mother’s life. The photo is of her at age seventeen. She was a beauty. My mother died in 2011 at age 91. From my perspective, her life had been a long, hard road. I’ve written so much about her, about our relationship, about her relationship with my father.
One of the layers of this painting is a poem, My Mother’s Hands. After writing the poem on the canvas, I remember feeling vulnerable. I was revealing her story to an audience who might not understand the battered wife syndrome.
The poem begins:
I wonder if a palm reader back then would have foretold
–a long life
–an unloving marriage
–an abusive spouse…
…and then I smudged some of the words with gesso and paint.
In the last three years of their lives, my parents were in a care home, a house in a neighborhood with eight elderly residents. Another sister and I alternated visiting them during the week. Two other sisters orchestrated their care from afar. The brothers remained aloof until the very end as they didn’t feel at ease with our father.
In her later years, my mother’s hands were contorted with arthritis. Her fingers had trouble gripping a spoon and then navigating it to her mouth. But she had lost so many of her abilities that I didn’t want to help her too much. I watched as the spoon wobbled towards her mouth. Her mouth like a quivering bird anticipating food.
My father in the background would say “These are not the golden years.” I could see that.
One sunny day, we were sitting outdoors under fruit-laden orange trees. My mother said “I wonder where we go from here.”
“What do you mean, Mom?” I asked.
“After we die.” she said.
“I thought you believed in heaven,” I said, trying to offer comforting words.
My father said “There’s nothing.”
“Dad,” I said, “I thought you had a dream of heaven. You said it was beautiful.”
My father said, “It was lonely. I was the only one there.”
In slow motion, my mother reached for my hand and held it–an unfamiliar gesture.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I’m sure thoughts of my mother weave through my mind on any given day. For one reason or another.
I wonder what she’d be thinking about the state of the world today. She once asked me to write her story…I’m not sure which one…the one of the devoted wife who stood by her husband no matter what abuse. Or the possible woman who hid herself away and didn’t have an opportunity to blossom.