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A Different Kind Of Adult Coloring, Without A Book

I just got back from a few days in Santa Barbara. The trips are very full and tiring, 5 hour drive down (I’m afraid of airplanes, small ones in particular), 2 days helping tend to someone in stage 5-6 Alzheimer’s, 5 hour drive back. So, a short post.

On one of my previous trips, I brought Mom colored pencils. We sat out on her back patio, I drew a small part of her garden, roughly, and talked about it as I scribbled. Then I asked her to tell me what colors to use for the detail. She did. She darkened the palm fronds, colored the trunk of the tree, added shadows to the ground layer.

EPSON scanner image

83, Alzheimer’s, the woman still has better color sense than I.

It’s so fascinating to see what goes and what stays as the disease progresses. Also sad, but somehow I’m living in a doing the work and thinking the thoughts mode. Sadness does catch me, inexplicably sometimes and almost always unpredictably.

Trees. Mom still really loves trees. Me too. Back in the garden; my dogwoods have begun to flower and a magnolia I had transplanted last year seems to have settled pretty happily in its new spot.

53 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting and sharing in the midst of all that is going on in your life. The sketch is really lovely. Every time that my peach tree blooms, I think of my mom and how she transplanted it to my garden, as well as how much she loved gardening when she was still able to get about.

  2. I don’t think you can lose your color sense. It’s something you are either born with or not.

    There is a strong artist/artisan streak in my family that came down from my paternal grandfather. No one taught it to each other. It’s just there.

    My mother, an artist, felt compelled to start drawing before preschool. She noticed at that early age that she colored the sky right down to the horizon, while other children left a blank space between the sky above and the rest of the scene.

    Artists are born; not created. They see differently because they notice more. Some paint pictures, some build things, and some just know how to put things together in a house. Your mother has used her color sense all her life it seems.

  3. Sweet/Bittersweet. I believe some essential part always remains, although it can be a puzzle finding out what that may be.

  4. Memory is a funny thing.
    We went someplace with my Dad who suffered this same disease, and his shoe came untied. We were just a bit rushed and he quickly bent down and tied that shoe right back up.
    The next morning sitting on a chair he couldn’t get his shoe tied.

    When he let his fingers do it they remembered. When his brain tried to tell his fingers how to do it all was lost.

  5. Made me tear up. I have fond memories of painting with my Father-in-law and with my Mother too. I miss them and sharing time with them, however the fragility of life is. Every stage is colorful. Sending love.

  6. I love the drawing and I love that your mother helped with it. What a gift. I would certainly frame it if were mine.

  7. An equally charming drawing for starters. A very bittersweet post ~ so sorry you’re all going through this. Sending hugs.

  8. Lisa, I was so intrigued by your post title and love what I found here, though I am so sorry you are going through this with your Mother. Art is soothing and this drawing is truly beautiful!

    The Arts by Karena

  9. What a lovely activity to have with your mother. I’m sure she enjoyed it immensely. And, another wonderful drawing from you. As others have said, this is a bittersweet time.

  10. What a lovely activity with your mother, and your drawing is so charming. It’s a funny disease and everyone seems to react differently to it. We are at the end stages right now with my mother-in-law, she has declined really quickly in the last 6 months. But she still knows who we are which we thought she would forget by now. Everything else is gone including the will to live, but she was always such a social person and cared so much for her family, maybe that’s why she has remembered her relationships.
    Thinking of you as you’re going through this, I know it is very difficult (and my drive is only an hour each way). XOX

    1. How lovely that she still knows who you are. My mother, I would guess, still has a very strong will to live. She too is very social. My sense is that the brain falls apart as it must. :(

  11. Hello, dear Lisa.

    Thank you for the update on your mum. I admire your ability to focus on the small wins and happy moments that you’ve been able to find on this journey with your mum. I think holding on to the good goes a great deal towards making the painful and sad more tolerable to endure.

    Thinking of all of you,

    SSG xxx

    1. Hello. xox. My mother had always been a very cheerful and optimistic person. I have inherited some of her inclinations:).

  12. I’m sorry. What do you listen to on your drives? I’m glad your mother still feels and enjoys color. I’m not a good flyer flier? I don’t know. And refuse to get on small planes. I’ll drive or sail, thanks. I would really like to sail to Europe.

    1. Audible books! Light-hearted or fantasy fiction. I also call my best friend, my siblings, and my children. We chat. The time passes just fine, except I get uncomfortable from all the sitting! We sailed to Europe when I was a child. It was a wonderful time.

  13. <3

    This reminds me of the movie "Alive Inside," about Alzheimers patients listening to music, and how it helps them return to the parts of themselves that were thriving and active. It is a sad and inspirational movie.

    Your dogwoods sound lovely.

    1. I will look for that movie. Thank you. On this last trip, I took Mom to the symphony. Although I have never liked going to the symphony, it was wonderful to see how much Mom liked it, how calm and enthralled she was.

  14. Emotions can be more draining than physical exertion, and I’m glad you’re back home to rest up. Although it’s with sadness, it sounds like you’re settling into your new spot along with that Magnolia.

  15. Sorry you are going through this. Please remember to take care of yourself – you will need it for the long haul.

    1. Thank you. After this last trip I did feel that I had run myself right out of capability. I need to rebuild it for the next phase.

    1. Thank you. I never feel good, per se, am all too aware of my flaws and my weakness. But my mother did a wonderful job raising us, and I am trying to take care of her in equal measure. I want to feel that were she still with us, she’d be happy to see she taught us well.

    1. It’s hard. And Mom’s comfort really varies, depending on how well we all manage her days.

  16. That picture and especially the palm tree fronds is definitely produced by artistic eyes and hands!

    Even if Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, I cannot but be fascinated how it enhances some aspects of a person. Your mother is still (or more?) an artist. My grandmother began singing WWII schlager songs in crystal-clear German at the age of 85 and with stage 4-5 AD. She was exposed to German soldiers and war culture in her home town up in Northeastern Finland. I am convinced she has a secret that she took to the grave. :) I hope you find the strength to spend time with your mother – and coloring as long as she feels like it!

  17. Yes, frame that sketch! And see if you can’t get another couplefew sketches done with mom to frame as well…would be lovely to have a group of them. This post really made me miss my mom. My father-in-law had Alzheimers but it brought out very difficult personality traits and suspicions and there was no chance of spending any peaceful time with him. God be with you and your mom.

  18. Thank you for sharing this. My grandmother is also suffering, and my mom makes a similar frequent 5-hour trip from El Paso to Midland, Texas and back. No fear of small planes (that’s all me – ha)…just no direct flight. But in all other aspects the story is very similar. I’m going to suggest they try coloring.

  19. I like to thimk it’s the soul expressing itself. I lost my mother to a combination of Parkinson’s and senile dementia after a struggle of 8 years, and what a fighter she was. She died in 2014 and it still breaks my heart that she had to go through this.(When you wrote here about your parents, I always thought how lucky you were to still have them.)

    But no matter how bad my mom’s actual condition, the plants and flowers in her apartment were always thriving and blossoming. They were her expression of beauty and her orchids now live happily on my sister’s windowsill.

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