Soon after lunch, we had been told, a special artist would arrive who would love to meet Marshal and get creative with him. Ricky arrived in the early afternoon. He was carrying a guitar, just in case, but quickly discovered that drawing, not making music, was to be his calling today.
They hit it off right away. Involved in a parallel drawing challenge of some sort, they worked side by side, bed and chair, for nearly two hours. They stopped on occasion to look over at the other’s work and give quirky, heartfelt critiques and compliments. I was in the room, watching and listening for a while, as their silence was broken only by laughs and a language of art shared just between them. They sketched cowboys, eagles, and wonderful character faces. Not a lot needed to be said. Time was theirs.
It was a remarkable moment for me, as a mom, to participate in presence only for a change. These were some of my best opportunities to watch Marshal at work and at play. I felt honored to observe him from my bedside seat, in my pull-out bed, in my mess of stuff. I listened with permission to let go, to breathe differently. I could take in a snack, write in my journal, or even sneak a picture, smiling as I answered the occasional “…right, Mama?”
Who was this young man, away from me, aside from me, in part because of me? I loved seeing his imagination and creative spirit, his innocent, unfiltered interactions with others, free from my loving but ever-present shadow. In those special times, I was but a witness of things good and creative.
We were never to have driving lessons, first dates, or off-to-college moments, but in watching Marshal make art I could see him grow. He was settling down, growing more reflective, and showing more interest in others. I realized he was coming into his own despite all he had been through, and so was I. We were becoming partners on our journey.
Those magical moments grew into finished products as the day wore on. We taped them to walls, hung them on any small space we could find– on the backs of iPads, bathroom mirrors, IV poles, table trays, and wheelchair handles. Art was everywhere.
Looking around the room-turned-gallery, hopeful thoughts would cross my mind:
Maybe we are going to be okay.
Maybe, we can do this.
Betsy Fisher is a mother, writer, and champion of Arts in Medicine. During her time as a caregiver to her son, Marshal, she wrote from her point of view about Marshal’s experiences in a healthcare setting where the arts and healthcare often intersected. This collection is based on her journal entries.
Special thanks to AIM writer in residence Andrew Hix for serving as blog editor for this collection.
Read more by Betsy: Artist’s Journals