This lobsterman in Boothbay Harbor, Maine had a good eye for design, shape, and form, even if that wasn’t the practical purpose of these colorful patterns. More than likely, the equipment’s owner was merely getting ready for the new lobster season. The traps were arranged in near perfect stacks right next to the dock in the bay. The bright yellow buoys, this lobsterman’s chosen color, seemed to be stuck into the traps simply for easy access. Nevertheless, I thought the scene made a rather artsy composition.
Mom was a pretty woman to be sure. Yet her graciousness and her colorful paintings revealed her artistic inner beauty. She also modestly disclosed her creativity through her color-coordinated attire.
Mom died peacefully in her sleep on April 23 after a lengthy trial with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90.
Though she had lost much of her recall of all things past, Mom still knew who her five children were. She couldn’t always call us by name, but she recognized us. She also lit up when old friends stopped for a visit. Conversation for her, however, was difficult.
My brothers, sisters and I found it intriguing that Mom maintained her pleasant personality throughout her journey with Alzheimer’s. The staff all loved her at both the retirement home, where she lived with Dad before he died in December 2009, and at the nursing home where Mom spent her last year.
Mom was a model resident. She was polite, gracious, kind and asked for little. She didn’t wander, was not a bother to anyone, and maintained her politeness despite her dementia.
In her last days, she had pain, but because of her diminished language skills, was unable to articulate where she hurt. The staff and family could only guess.
At the calling hours and during the funeral, the same descriptive word kept being repeated to define our mother. Beauty. Mom radiated beauty not only in her looks, but in the humble and generous way she lived her life. She was the kind of mother everyone wished for. We were very, very fortunate to have her for so long.
Dad was always very proud of Mom, perhaps even to the point of being a bit overprotective. Early in their marriage, Dad took Mom to a company party. When his male coworkers saw her for the first time, they feigned shock that Dad had such a beautiful wife. They even teased Dad that his wife must have been mad at herself the day they married.
As the preacher at her funeral said, Mom never drew attention to herself. She just drew, and painted. Even when she won awards for her lovely landscapes, Mom would respectfully accept the award, and often declare that some other artist should have won.
Mom also showed her beauty in how she raised her five children in the tumultuous post-World War II era. We had rules to follow, simple household chores to do, and if we didn’t quite respect what should have been done, she judiciously administered a discipline that was appropriate for our age and the offense. She was as fair as she was attractive.
It wasn’t easy to rear five energetic and individualistic children. Since she was a stay-at-home mother, Mom carried the primary responsibility of keeping us clothed, fed, nurtured and behaved. She could have written a book on parenting. Given the beauty of her personality, she probably would have used a pseudonym if she had.
Mom was a wonderful woman, and we will never forget her kindness, gentleness and most of all the exquisiteness she naturally shared in this world through her paintings and her authentic living.
At the funeral, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace about our wonderful mother. It was as if Mom’s gracious, artistic spirit had permeated the service in one last beautiful brush stroke for all to behold.
A painting hangs on a wall in my home office where I spend much of my workday. The artistry isn’t one of my mother’s rich landscape watercolors.
The painting is simple in content, perhaps even a bit juvenile in style. That’s why I like it so much. I purchased the watercolor from a former student.
The sixth-grade artist took a common setting and made it exquisite. She had captured perfectly the daily scene in her classroom. A row of colorful books lined the soldier brick windowsill. The black tattered blinds, cords hanging limp, covered the upper third of the old steel framed windows.
I wanted the painting as a memento. I also wanted to encourage her to keep painting. That was a long time ago, and I don’t know if the girl, now a young woman, still paints or not. I hope she does. She had a creative eye.
My middle grandchild does, too. His older brother by two years, and his 2-year old sister also have their own individual flashes of creativity. But Davis is different for sure. He is left-handed after all.
For a 5-year old, he seems to see patterns that others, myself included, look right through or ignore altogether. Davis may have inherited some of his great-grandmother’s artistic ability.
My wife and I visited recently with our daughter and her family in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. During our stay, Davis’ creativeness burst forth on more than one occasion.
He showed me his rock collection, which is housed on the porch of an unused entrance to their home. Davis uses several characteristics to choose his rocks. Size, color, texture, shape, and weight are all his geologic requisites.
I was honored when he asked me to identify a rock he chose to take to preschool to share with the other students. I told him it was granite, and Nana chimed in that countertops are made of granite. This took us to the Internet for pictures of the coarse-grained igneous rock. Davis was fascinated with all the different types and colors.
While playing football with him outside, I pointed out a big puffy cloud floating overhead. Davis informed me that it was a dragon. On second glance, I don’t know how I missed that obvious observation.
The sure sign that we may have a budding Picasso in the family was Davis’ intensity while drawing. He stared at the Wii characters on the television screen as his big brother played a game. Davis turned to his drawing paper over and over again, dedicated to replicate what he saw. He didn’t quit until he was satisfied with what he had sketched.
His siblings, Evan and Maren, draw, too. Evan is a meticulous stay-between-the-lines kind of guy, while little Maren is just honing her abstract expressionism. She sent a sample of her early work back to Ohio with us.
At the park, Davis discovered a shark designed cleverly onto a section of a gigantic wooden play set. Like the dragon, I didn’t see it until Davis pointed it out. The sharp teeth, the menacing eye, the dorsal fins and the fanned tail were all right there. Creative kid that he is, Davis sat down in the pea gravel and began to outline a replica with his index finger.
I marvel at children who can see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I admire it all the more when the children happen to be youngsters I know well, like my grandchildren.