Monday, December 16, 2013

The Beginning

I went to Edward Harper at Blount Memorial Hospital's Senior Services for a free Caregiver Consultation. (In the east Tennessee area, for more information or to schedule a free caregiver consultation, call Senior Services at 865-977-5744). During this appointment, Mr. Harper challenged me to paint "Caregiver Art" for an exhibit at the hospital. Of course, first I had to figure out what 'caregiver art' meant to me! I decided it was an expression of what it felt like to be a caregiver. I considered ivy or vines climbing a tree for support but I did not want it to have a negative parasitic connotation. Then, my mother sent me to a store to reward myself with some balloons to encourage me as I was beginning to suffer from caregiver burnout. When I told the florist that I was a caregiver, she was immediately impressed and thanked me. She gave a rose for free from a vase of roses that they could not sell because they were not perfect. Despite its imperfection, it was still beautiful to behold. I've always loved painting roses and I began to think about how my husband, though imperfect, was still my beautiful rose. This led me to consider how being a caregiver was like taking care of my rose garden.
       Before my husband's severe stroke, he and I had a rose garden with 80 roses in Gibson, Tennessee. I did the dead-heading and harvesting roses for vases indoors, and he weeded, nourished and fertilized them - it was teamwork between us. I also took pictures of the roses to use as material for my paintings. It was after my father died of lung cancer that my mother, my spouse and I moved to the Smoky Mountains as we had always wanted a mountain view close to Cades Cove. The soil here was different - mostly red clay - and digging holes was terribly difficult. Only 6 months after we moved here, my husband had his stroke and put everything else on the back burner. The first two or three years were the hardest. Now that it has been 6 years since his stroke, things are well enough to allow me to have time to paint.
      It took me two years after the suggestion of the painting exhibit to actually get started. Those two years were taken up with my own health problems including congestive heart failure, bleeding bowels and gall bladder surgery among other things. This year however, we have enjoyed good health and so I finally finished a series of nine 30 x 30 inch paintings of roses to express how being a caregiver is like taking care of a rose garden...

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Art of Caregiving Exhibit November 4th at Blount Memorial Hospital.