What kind of life exists when you’re on the precipice of knowing and not knowing? When only in the moment, and only for a moment, can 94 years of life flood a connection back to the here and now?.
What is it like to lose oneself and still be alive?
My Mother has Alzheimer’s. As a result, both my sister and I are now no longer her daughters so much as we are her caregivers, her protectors, her last remaining ties back to who she once was and will never be again. We once relied on her for life, now she us.
Faced with the challenge of keeping my Mom entertained and her mind engaged, I decided to introduce the intuitive mark-making process using charcoal on Bristol paper.
My Mom had dabbled in realistic painting years ago and was quite accomplished, considering it was just a passing hobby.
I taught her to rub the charcoal between her fingers and then showed her the marks and smudges that could adorn the paper by just her random touch, no thought needed. That concept was hard for her to grasp in the beginning. She struggled to let loose without a plan. I taught her the art of experimenting, suggesting by example all the ways charcoal could make its imprint on paper, including the use of erasing.
Mom shined when it came to picking out images among the abstract marks we had made. Working always on the same piece of paper together, we would laugh and make up wild stories to go with the images. She loved the way we were able to connect over the marks we created. It brought us into a different, deeper realm of experience.
One of the most remarkable aspects revealed to me about my Mother was an innocence I had never seen before. A childlike softness would appear as she worked the marks, giving birth to birds and fish.
This project kept my Mom's intellect (always pretty formidable) active and involved, giving her the freedom to reach deep into locked caverns and intuitively create. The release made her feel creatively productive, if only for the time dedicated to the mark-making process. Often, after mom and I would complete a piece of work and we’d leave the room, the next time she saw the work she’d wonder who did it. When I'd tell her that we did it together, she’d say, "No, I didn't do it, you must have done it." I started taking videos and photos to document her involvement. After showing them to her, she would just look at me in disbelief. These were the times she realized her memory had deserted her.
This past year I have collected phrases, words and pieces of conversation from precious moments spent with my mother.