This picture of my 91-year-old mom was taken recently. She is standing in front of the paintings she created a few years ago — when she was 85-years-old. She had never painted before then. She was living in an assisted living facility where an amazing Activities Director worked with the residents over the course of several weeks to create mixed-media paintings. Mom picked pictures from magazines, traced them onto art paper, and then painted and colored each picture. I love that. It’s a process. I’m pretty proud of her.
In July it will be five years since I began facilitating an art class for my mom’s current assisted living facility. It was a bit of trial and error in the beginning and it took a while to find our groove. I didn’t want it to be a craft class. I wanted it to be a painting class, but I struggled to find the right medium for all the residents, almost solely women, and their individual unique needs. Some ladies had trouble with their eyesight and others had trouble with their hands, shaky and uncooperative.
I always looked at the paintings on Mom’s wall with envy and it was my goal to help these artists create something “wall worthy”. However, it didn’t take long to understand the “shortness of time” within the walls of a retirement home. We finally settled on simple drawings outlined, big and bold, onto canvas boards, and watercolor markers became the medium of choice. These pieces could be completed in one session, and although not the intricate mixed media I had hoped for, still wall-worthy in their own right.
After Covid restrictions lifted, and I was finally allowed back into the retirement facility, so much in life had changed — in their world and in mine. I returned to an art class half the size. Many of my precious ladies were no longer with us, either having passed away or moved to the nursing home facility during the pandemic. After the first couple of “new” classes, I wasn’t sure I could pick up the pieces and continue the class. I didn’t think I could hold that loss along with my own grief of losing my husband.
It was heaviness heaped onto an already heavy heart.
And I had no energy.
It’s been a slow process to rebuild the class. Hard to find the rhythm again. Some weeks, it was only Dorothy, Mom and me. I wasn’t sure I even cared anymore. It all took so much energy.
I had nothing to give.
Except there was Dorothy. And Mom.
They never missed a class. Dorothy was even early, and was often waiting for me. Seeing Dorothy’s nodding head and smiling face as I approached the room infused new energy into me. How could I stop coming? She was why I came back. Mom was the reason I bought more canvases and continued to create big and bold outlines.
Dorothy and Mom.
And then Mary. And Anne.
And two weeks ago Rosee found the class.
Last week, Wanda, who reminds me so much of my Aunt Lois, rolled her wheelchair into the room, and asked if she could join the class.
And so we begin. Again.
I’m finding a lot of that in my life lately.
I’m not quite into full mode yet, and often forget to take photos before the ladies leave class, but here are some delightful smiles I’ve captured over the last couple of months.
My new precious ladies…