A couple years ago, when our ancient car breathed its last in a construction zone during rush hour, my husband finally acknowledged it was time to get a different car. As we laid that vehicle to rest, Mike started doing research. We decided it was time to take a step of faith that I was really going to go back into painting and with that in mind, started making a list of what would meet my needs.
First and foremost was gas mileage. If I was transporting art, or attending workshops hither, thither and yon, I wanted great mileage. Then, there was the need for space. When transporting large canvases or panels (or antique mirrors), I’d need something that could fold down to lay things flat. And, since I love to paddle on rivers and lakes, I wanted to have a roof rack to transport my boat plus a hitch to pull a trailer full of kayaks. At first we were looking at station wagons, but then focused more on crossover SUVs. We found the Chevy Equinox fit the bill. It got the same mileage as the now defunct sedan, had lots more room for art supplies and as an added bonus - for someone who lives in the great white north - had seat warmers.
The Artmobile, as I called it, gave great service. It hauled me all over the Midwest, helped me move into my new studio, and was great for my mother-in-law to get into before her stroke, since she didn’t have to bend to get in nor have to be lifted to get out. It was an all-around great investment.
With a tear in my eye, I must report that the Artmobile has died. I was broadsided at an intersection on May 15th and was immediately enshrouded by airbags. It its final moments, the Artmobile took good care of me. There were a few cuts on my hand, but with the airbags, side curtains and seatbelt I was secure. I called 911, got my information together and then tried to move the car but it was no go. It was eventually taken away on a truck. I had the wherewithal to take a photo of the car before the towing company came. It’s the last I saw of it.
I am greatly blessed. No one in the collision (three cars were involved) was hurt. Mike and I had been wondering what to do with Dad’s car since he can no longer drive, and it is now sitting in our garage where the Artmobile used to reside. We have good insurance and have been reimbursed. All is well…or as well as it could be. I’m back to driving an old sedan with no seat warmer but it does have a roomy trunk. If the work starts pouring out from the studio we can look for another vehicle. For now, the Buick will do.
But if I’m completely honest, I have to admit I miss my car. It was good, it was solid, and I had plans to keep driving it for twenty years. We’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I’m pretty sure I’m hearing some giggles from heaven right now.
Recently, I met a group of co-workers for breakfast. One in particular had a need to vent but at the end we all agreed it was not about her, it was her expectations and she needed to let it go. Less than two hours later, I found myself in a similar situation. In caregiving, I had certain expectations but people who were more affected had different expectations. In fact, there were four sets of expectations and three of us had to let ours go.
You would think that with over a dozen years of caregiving experience – my mother with Alzheimer’s, someone’s else’s mother with cancer in hospice care, my husband recovering from injuries, and my in-laws – I would have everything going like a well-oiled machine. Alas, no.
The truth is, the biggest obstacle to my peace of mind is myself. When I first stepped into caring for my mother, I was at a critical juncture of my art career. I’d accrued a long list of shows and awards, had news articles written about me, and had my work mentioned a couple times in an art magazine. I’d been in some prestigious regional and national shows and had had two person and one person shows in some pretty good galleries. My main gallery representative was urging me to start focusing on the east coast.
I chose to put that aside with the thought I’d be able to pick it up again in a few years, but as each year passes it’s increasingly obvious that I have to lay down all those dreams and expectations. If I want the same sort of career I had, I will have to start at the very beginning again. I don’t know if I can or if I even want to.
Nonetheless, letting go of those expectations is a constant struggle. It involves a certain amount of grieving as you face the death of a dream. I’ve been postponing that grief for some years, but I think it’s time to face it head on. Art has changed significantly for me and it’s time to own that. Only by letting go can I find my way again.
Mom has been home from rehab now, for about a week. She’s in a wheelchair without the use of the left side of her body, with her husband of seventy plus years who has dementia. She is dependent on aides to get her out of bed, to get dressed, to toilet her, to shower her, and to get her into her wheelchair or into a chair, sofa or bed. She’s dependent on her husband to push her wheelchair to wherever she wants to go. She can do very little for herself.
The only thing she has is the power of no.
“Do you need me to call the doctor for you?”
“Do you want to go to a different doctor?” This was asked after a lengthy discussion of how unhappy she was with her eye doctor.
“Are you going to get your eye glass prescription filled now?”
“Would you like to have dinner downstairs, or would you like us to bring something in?”
“No.” Apparently, offering a choice isn't going to be a strategy that works.
“Shall I check this facility to see if you can get on the waiting list?”
“Would you like to at least go and see it?”
I get it, truly I do. But as I look toward the not-too-distant future I see that because she has been so unwilling to deal with what has been happening to her and Dad’s health over the past few years, we will come to a point where we will be forced to move them into any place that might have room rather than some place that we’ve been able to thoroughly check out and actually choose.
This is because no one (myself included) wants to make a decision. No one wants to deal with the role reversals of parents and children. No one wants to say “no” to mom.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.