Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Painting of You

The Painting of You
Author’s Press Series, Vol. 1
ISBN: 978-0-557-12874-7
80 pages. Paper. $10.00

From the book's order page comes this description:

Designed and published by William Michaelian, the Author’s Press Series was conceived as a set of relatively inexpensive, uniformly designed titles meant to explore different themes and facets of his writing. The eighty entries in this first volume, The Painting of You, blend poetry and prose written in a three-year period during which the author was caring for his mother in her home while she was battling Alzheimer’s Disease. The difficulties they faced are set against a revealing backdrop of family history, daily life, and dreams, as their roles are reversed and their friendship is deepened and colored by change.

I’m not going to pretend this is a review of the book, but rather a few thoughts on reading these pieces. William’s poetry and prose (if I may pretend familiarity) explores not just the decline of his mother from Alzheimer’s disease but also the task of caring for her and the toll such a role placed on him. Despite the ongoing sense of loss and grief, William also displays a sense of wonder. The disease’s persistent subtraction from his mother’s mind raises many questions. The answers are sometimes slippery and elusive, other times clear:

How much does our memory define not just who we are but also those around us? Which is worse—the mother’s loss of memory about prior events or the son’s continual remembrances? Is his mother’s descent a travelling “from who she was” or are there innumerable instances of who she is?

The connection between William and his mother intensifies even though she grows more distant. The love and safety he provides cannot be erased by Alzheimer’s. In assisting his mother along the path of the disease’s journey, William describes how the ache in helping also “makes music of our pain.”

Addendum: I meant to mention the similarity of my questions with a post I made on The Odyssey, which included some thoughts about the memory theme in the work. The understanding on memory and identity displayed three millennia ago is rather humbling.

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