Two new cat head paintings, long and rambling updates
It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted to this blog, and there’s a good reason for that (which I’ll get to later in this post). Forgive me as this will be long and rambling!
First, I want to share two of my latest cat head paintings:
Detail of the orange kitty painting:
It’s been really nice to get back to painting and believe it or not, I have a stack of about 10 paintings in the works. There are of course many cat heads, plus some portraits too. There are also some larger, more ambitious works that are waiting in the wings, almost finished but not quite.
In the future I hope to be more active on this blog, posting all my latest paintings and pontificating (as you know is my tendency) about art materials and painting!
I took my time with these paintings and worked on many of them at the same time. So, instead of focusing on just one or two at a time, I’ve got about 7 or 8. I paint a little bit on several of them each day, set them aside to let them dry, then continue on down the list. I am not sure if this is a better or worse method than what I used to do, which was to spend more intensive time on just a few paintings and push to finish them more quickly.
Now, onto why I have been absent from this blog for so long. (This is my first post of 2017! That’s a long time away!) I had a lot of things going on in my life which kept me away from painting.
I mentioned in a previous post (about working in a small studio space) that I was caregiving for a family member. Well, that phase of my life has ended. The family member was my mom, and she died a few months ago after suffering from dementia for several years. It has been rough, but I also feel privileged to have looked after her and am grateful for the way she spent her final days on earth.
I shared caregiving duties with one of my sisters. My sister had some bad experiences with nursing homes (she worked at a bad one when she was a teenager) and she was adamant that we try to keep our mom out of a facility for as long as possible. We mostly succeeded at that. Our mom had a fall and a broken bone early this year and recovered in a nursing home for a few months. While the nursing home was actually pretty good, they had limited access to cats, and my mom was a type of “cat whisperer.” She loved all cats and they loved her. When she’d enter a room, all the cats would start to purr. Even the most foul-tempered, grouchy cats found our mom irresistible. We didn’t want our mom’s last weeks or months spent in a half-life, with few or none of her beloved animals around her.
So, much to the astonishment of the nursing home, we took our mother home after her broken bone had healed. She spent her final months at home, eventually passing very peacefully with a cat sleeping at the foot of her bed.
Here’s our mom holding Missy, her faithful companion in her final days and hours. This photo was taken in happier days when our mom was healthy.
Missy stuck by Mom up until the end, “guarding” and protecting her. She stuck to Mom like glue, and after our mom died, Missy looked almost at a loss, as if she had no purpose anymore. Sadly, Missy died a few weeks ago, declining very fast. (Our vet said that faithful animals often die soon after they lose their “person.”)
I have to post a few more pictures of my mom, just because she was the coolest of moms and lots of fun.
Mom never really “got” that she had dementia but as the disease progressed, she felt bad that she wasn’t “contributing” like she used to. But one thing she did very well up until maybe a year before her death was read aloud. She read with expression and feeling and always made the book more interesting. I brought her to my studio almost daily and insisted that she read, and told her (because it was true!) that when she read to me, I always painted better. This made her feel like she still had a “purpose.”
I took mom on a vacation to the Rockies and other parts of Colorado a few years ago. She admired everything with childlike awe. She was always fun on vacations and road trips.
SOME FINAL OBSERVATIONS
I understand that this is my painting and art blog, so it’s not my intention to stray onto different subjects too often, but I guess this is an exception. I have a few other thoughts to share and then future posts will return to my more common topics (mostly art materials and painting!).
I want to share some observations about being a caregiver of someone with dementia. One thing I want to advise is to enjoy and savor the good times. It’s really tough because all you want to see is for your loved one to improve. It’s hard to not notice new signs of gradual decline. But I entreat you—enjoy the good times. Mom was blessed because she didn’t have too many really “bad” dementia symptoms, though sometimes she could be more difficult to handle. Most of the time she was usually pretty even-tempered and quick to smile. I am so glad that I took her on that trip to Colorado when she was still able to enjoy it (though she only had very spotty memories of it for a short time afterward). I’m incredibly grateful for all the good times we had together in my studio as she read to me. Sometimes she read the same page of a book several times over, but that was okay! It was good times, good times.
Even as a loved one declines, there are a LOT of good times to be had. Please savor them and enjoy them to their fullest. And, take more video. That is one big regret I have—that I didn’t get more video of the good times. I have a few things, but not nearly enough.
Another thing I want to say is, GET HELP and SUPPORT. My sister and I tried to “tough it out” and go it alone for too long. We shouldn’t have done this. We finally got more help from friends at church (who loaned us expensive medical equipment like a hospital bed) and during the final weeks, hospice. We are so grateful for these angels who were such support to us, and we regret not asking for help much sooner.
And a final thing: For anyone, religious or not, I would advise getting help, counseling, support, because these are invaluable things. The grieving process is very hard and everyone is different. Don’t try to hustle yourself out of the process too soon—it doesn’t work. Moreover, don’t let anyone else try to push you to “snap out of it.” No, you are not “weak” if you need someone to talk to and help you process what you’re going through. And, if you have religious faith, LEAN ON IT. I hesitate to bring up religion because this is mostly an art blog. I will make an exception this time and ask this question: What is the point of having a religious or spiritual belief if it doesn’t help you during these hard times? It can make a profound difference. Don’t lean on your personal faith as a last resort—turning to it only after you’re exhausted and dejected—rely on it and embrace it early and often. That’s what it’s there for!
Okay, that’s the end of this post. If you read this all the way to the end, thank you for your patience and understanding! 😉