The title for my first blog post of 2015 may sound like a pitch announcing some new small paintings but it’s about a non art subject of when an aging parent and a child experience a role reversal and finding beauty in small things. I write the first draft and final post for this blog entry sitting in a hospital room watching over my Mother who was admitted the beginning of the new year. Without going into details as to her condition she’s reached a point in her life where she is totally dependent upon others to tend to her needs and has been so for some time. Sadly its a situation that is all too common of an experience for most of us at some point in our lives.
I can’t help but think back to a time where I have a vague memory of my Mother feeding me in a high chair, coaxing me to eat some new Gerber Baby food. I’m pretty sure I wanted cherries and not carrots. But she generally succeeded in getting me to eat. I also know she took care of me when I was sick and reassured me when I was afraid and that things were going to be OK. Now as I patiently feed her here in the hospital I can’t help but ponder how our roles of being a caregiver have reversed and much of what she did for me when I was young is now being given back in similar ways.
Some dear friends of ours stopped by at the hospital to visit and at one point I interrupted our conversation to provide my Mother with some water through a straw. As I turned back around almost all had tears in their eyes as it brings to mind memories of their own parents.
For those of us who have either experienced giving care to an aging parent or perhaps are already doing so, the process can be difficult for both parties. However, one trait of an artist is that they often go about finding beauty in small things endeavoring to see more than the obvious and at times like this it’s a beneficial trait in trying to remain positive in difficult circumstances, not just when it applies to art.
At one point my Mother opened her eyes and looking at me with eyes of recognition she gave a great big smile and started to laugh, but the expression of laughter turned to that of a cry. Perhaps she experienced an awareness towards her condition or other fear which she could not verbalize. I calmly reassured her that everything was OK and as for the rest of the family we are all in different places but that me and my wife were there. I also gave a simple explanation as to why she didn’t feel good, and all that hospital stuff was to help her feel better. The explanation seemed to soothe her and as they brought her lunch tray into the room I began the process of feeding her. She ate better than she had since arriving in the hospital. Yes, a measure of beauty in a small thing.
True, the obvious, may not always look good, but the small things such as being able to reassure her, bring a smile, bolster her will, even singing to her are small priceless moments. For me one of those priceless moments was yesterday when something made my Mother start sneezing one right after the other. First you have to understand that she has lost the ability of conveying understandable speech except for a word or two such as NO! However, she found another word to express her annoyance after about the 9th sneeze that was understandable. It was a funny moment coming from a 72 pound frail woman.
Sure, there are sacrifices, I’m away from the easel and painting for a time, but parents too sacrificed for their children when they were in need. Also just as parents didn’t do everything right in taking care of us and in retrospect I realize I could have done some things better. I recall reading an article years ago, that had the title: From the Cradle to the Grave, the Greatest Need is Love. Even without the article the title speaks volumes.
So, if you one day find yourself in the role of a caregiver whether to a greater or lesser degree, remember that as you go about giving your care, govern it with the principle of love and in the process you will see beyond the obvious and will see the beauty in small things. It’s a priceless reward.
In ways of practicality I found this article which considered the following three points:
- How can parents and their adult children prepare for “the days of distress”?
- When may parents need more help from their children?
- What practical help can you give to someone who is caring for an elderly parent?
Thanks for reading.