Art with attitude

I saw this artwork somewhere, don’t recall where, and its combative honesty spoke to me.

Big surprise.

As I prepared for Aunt Sophia’s funeral yesterday, thoughts of her sluiced through my brain, like the edge of the ocean lapping at my bare feet.

She would like this artwork. 

I know, I know, artwork like this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I like it, but don’t want it plastered all over my house. I do have this in my bathroom, though:

I find it helpful as I go about my daily ablutions, especially on days like yesterday as I made myself presentable for an event I dreaded attending.

No one likes going to funerals. Well, if there are people who do, I don’t get it. There probably are people who like it. If there are “extreme couponers” willing to spend hours preparing for and doing their grocery shopping, I guess it’s possible that there are people who like going to funerals. Yes, I can see how some people need closure, one of the most overused words in the English language. Ok, I can see how some people find comfort in the ritual that envelopes saying that final good-bye to a loved one. I also can see how some people enjoy the socializing that occurs before and after, in which people from near and far come together for a sad and solemn occasion.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we were spending time, good quality time, with our loved one, instead of saying good-bye to them?

I definitely needed an extra surge of power to prepare for Sophia’s funeral. And if that surge comes from a snarky piece of art in my bathroom, I’ll take it. In addition to facing my own demons of funeral-memory-overload from my mom’s event in October 2005, I also had the momentous task of getting my dress-clothes-hating son kitted out in appropriate funeral attire. Not that this task was on par with the Navy Seals taking down Osama bin Laden, by any means, but it was complicated and fraught with peril.

There were multiple-stage negotiations, some of which turned hostile; trial runs and practice fittings; surveillance to be done, and more than one recon mission to procure the necessary supplies to make this task a success.

With supplies gathered from multiple trips between our house and Amy’s house and two trips to Target and with fittings complete despite tricky buttons, we were good to go. My boy had the dress clothes he needed for two occasions. Back-to-back dressing up was torture for him, but like any good soldier, he dug deep and found the resources to stay strong and carry on.

He noted that Aunt Sophia was one of the few people on this Earth for whom he would subject himself to the torture that is dressing up. Not once, but twice, and not spaced out over the passage of time but one day right after the other.

He didn’t want to, but he did it. When I commented that while I know he hates it, he actually looked quite nice, his reply was “Your opinion.”

Ooooooo-k.

Back away slowly from the crazy boy.

As we saw our relatives gathered at the funeral home and then again at the church, I murmured, “Don’t comment on his outfit. Pretend everything is normal.” His smartened-up  look was duly noted but not commented upon, and peace was restored in our little kingdom.

The memorial service the night before the funeral was sad, very sad. But good. Lots of reminders from the priest to remember the good times, to not let our sadness override our happy memories. A whole lot of talk about Sophia being in a better place. While I can’t deny that her being free from the horrors of a brain tumor is a good thing, the “better place” idea is cold comfort to me.

I certainly don’t want her to still be here, suffering and unable to communicate, a prisoner in her uncooperative body. I most definitely don’t want her to be subjected to living a life devoid of independence, something so very important to her. I don’t even want her to have to live in a skilled nursing home instead of her own neat & tidy, cozy home that was so much a part of her.

What I want is for her to still be here, healthy and vibrant, with no trace of glioblastoma or any other disease. What I want is to be sitting at her kitchen table, watching her fold tiropitas as if it’s the easiest thing in the world (and knowing that I’ll be going home with some of those little yummies). What I want is to be in her pool, watching the delight on her face as she presents my kids with their own individual pool floats: a huge, inflated baseball glove for Payton and a hibiscus-flower decorated inner tube for Macy. What I want is to walk into her cool, dark garage, with the musty smell I remember from childhood, to grab a popsicle from the deep freeze. What I want is to be calling her on the phone to tell her we’re having a family party, after the kiddie party, for one of my kids’ birthdays, and to listen to hear volunteer to make the cake. What I want is to see her walk through my door and to hear her say, “Hi, Nance.”

What I want, I guess, is to stop time. To freeze our lively interaction. To halt the passage of time and the acquiring of diseases that rob us of our health, our independence, and our lifestyles.

And while I’m at it, I sure would like to have the same thing for my sweet mama. To have her sitting next to me at Sophia’s table, assuring me that folding the perfect tiropita is easy. Just pinch and seal and brush with melted butter, and the filling won’t leak out during baking. To have her in the pool with my kids and me, mediating their squabble over whose turn it is with the blue pool noodle. To be grabbing her a Diet Coke from the fridge in the musty garage. To hear her voice on the phone, even if it’s the 11th time she’s called me today. To know that she’ll be at the family after-party, scurrying around my  kitchen and telling me how to do a task I’ve done a thousand times, but which she thinks still requires her expertise.

Is that really asking so much?

Apparently so.

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4 Comments on “Art with attitude”

  1. David Benbow says:

    I’m fortunate that I haven’t lost any close family members, but I have a dog or two that I’d add to the list, if you’re bringing back loved ones. Unfortunately, the best we can do is honor their lives by sharing their stories, enjoying their memories, and continuing their traditions. You’re doing all that. Time will have to take care of the rest.

  2. Kayte says:

    I feel so sad for you guys, especially the kids, who were lucky to have connected with an older relative so deeply. It’s wonderful that she could give them so much.

    It’s too much loss and troubles, now. I hope for a summer season of relaxation and joyful family times for you all.

  3. Eddie says:

    I empathize with your desire to freeze time and keep loved ones healty and whole. Still, when exactly do we freeze time? At what moment is everything just right? And what would happen to those people who are destined to come into our lives in the future? I think we are at the true midpoint of life, we are glad to be done with youth but are in no rush to get any older. It seems we often come to appreciate the people in our lives just a bit too late.

  4. nancyspoint says:

    Losing loved ones is just plain hard isn’t it? I remember when I was watching my mom suffer at the end of her life, I felt so torn. I wanted her suffering to be over, but yet I wanted her to stay no matter what. Saying goodbye is hard, even if it’s the best thing for the person you are “losing.” Cherish the memories of aunt Sophia and your mom.


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