Friday, August 11, 2006

My mother's eyes and ears

My mother was a flutist until she was no longer able to play because of an operation she had on her hands. Though she has had arthritis since she was a little girl, she was still able to play flute until she was in her forties. I started playing the flute (her flute) when she stopped.

When she had to stop playing she decided to follow another creative path and became a painter. The paintings I remember from my childhood were not particularly impressive--mostly trees and flowers. She studied and worked very diligently at her painting while I moved to Illinois and raised a family of my own, so I saw very little of her more mature work. I was proud of my mother's accomplishments as a painter, and I liked the paintings I had seen, but I had no idea about the scope and quantity of her work.

My mother's vision has been deteriorating for the past ten years, and she is now completely blind. She asked me if I would like to take some paintings home with me on my next visit. My next visit was this past week. I felt odd taking paintings off her walls, but It felt wonderful to be able to have a piece of my mother's lost vision. That she was able to acquire enough technique to capture what she saw was a great gift. She put a tremendous amount of love into her work, and it is still there in her paintings. Her love can hang on my walls, and I can see it and feel it any time I want.

My mother also let me have her flute. It was the flute I practiced on for hours and hours every day during the first two years I played. She had extra keys and levers put on the instrument to make it possible for her to play it (they didn't really work--the surgeon she had put a pin in her thumb so that she couldn't bend it enough to hold the flute). I played it in her living room the day before yesterday. I played the siciliano from the Bach E flat Sonata, a piece I haven't thought about in years. It felt unusual and exciting to play, bringing back my tactile and aural memories from playing the instrument when I was 14, and feeling the similarity of my "voice" and my mother's "voice."

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