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I really wish I had had my dad around yesterday. Not because I was missing him as him so much, but because one of the manifestations of his dementia in the earlier stages was a compulsive need to pick up trash on the side of the road by our rural home. I spent a portion of yesterday picking up all the crap that people toss out their windows as they pass the haunt property and was really wishing that I had someone to do it who actually wanted to do it. He would have been so satisfied afterward.

He developed a lot of compulsive behavior in the mid to early stages of the disease. Picking up trash beside the road, taking trash and recycling to the dump, killing the stink bugs and lady bugs that were aiming for world domination (or at least domination of our home), cleaning things in general, grooming, and eating (the eating resulted him gaining an elephant’s worth of weight). When we put him into the dementia car facility, he picked up a couple new ones, like signing his name repeatedly because the activities director had had them practicing it one time. We have pages and pages of his signature. He’d fill the page, then put boxes around the signatures. He had also had a full beard and mustache for as long as my mom and I had known him. We’d never seen him without it. Then one day, he grabbed his roommate’s electric razor and compulsively shaved it all off. I walked in and looked around for him and didn’t even recognize him. When I realized the heavyset, clean shaven man in the chair was my father, I started to cry. It was so heartbreaking to not even recognize my dad. It was like a physical manifestation of all the ways he was mentally and emotionally becoming unrecognizable. He shaved a couple more times and then we were able to keep the razor hidden and he grew the beard and mustache back.

This painting from the Fractured Memories series, called Compulsions, is of him when he shaved, and I transferred a page of his signatures onto the background canvas.

Compulsions, 12

Compulsions, 12″ x 12″, mixed media

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