Sunday, April 13, 2008

More reflections on character


I've been looking all day
for a photo of Angela. I've
been thinking of her because
I'm reading City of Rains, by
Nirmal Dass. One character
in the novel is a middle-aged
woman in Rouen, and even though
she is French, and Angela was
Italian, a quality about the
experience reminded me of Angela.

The truth is that we don't have photographs because as
intimately connected as we were through daily exposure,
we were not on a photography basis. When her oldest
son got married, we watched the cousins arrive in their
tuxes standing on our own porch, and waved as the limo
pulled away carrying the family. Angela had her hair done,
and in her long, blue dress and special makeup looked
almost pretty. She was so proud of that son. But after
the brain damage she could not cook independently, or
do the household tasks she used to do without help,
and she started to think of herself as an invalid.

After that she directed her family, essentially stopped
moving very much, and her body grew more and
more feeble. It became hard for her to get up and
down stairs. She broke her leg in several places,
and told me ominously that it didn't break by itself.

Around this time she started yelling and crying at
her husband and family every night around midnight.
For years we listened, as people trapped in the knowledge
of an argument do, but we could never understand
enough of the dialect to get what was going on.
At first we thought it was funny -- that she was just
on a rant. But ultimately we had to admit that she
was terribly sad, and every night we'd wait for the
yelling to end, ( it usually went on for just ten or fifteen
minutes) and then sigh with relief when it was
over.

Angela spent less and less time in her garden, which
she loved. She couldn't hang out the laundry. She
supervised the canning of the tomato sauce for the
winter, but the children and their friends did the
work. After her second son got married, she and
her husband and their youngest child, a daughter
about 21 moved away. Six months later Angela
died.

At this time of year I always think of her, because
the tree she planted, will soon come into bloom,
and be radiant with white flowers. Angela could
make a rose bush grow from a single rose stem
she'd received from a floral bouquet. She was
a phenomenal gardener.

We all loved Angela. It didn't even make sense to love
her, we just did. She was noisy and nosy, irritated
and annoying, but every year she'd hand tomato
plants over the fence for Steven to plant. We
existed outside together for most of the spring,
summer and fall -- living and eating as we did
in our backyards, and there was a quiet understanding
of how to treat one another so that we were
all comfortable and had sufficient privacy.

And Angela was funny, pointing to her giant
hanging zucchini plants and saying, "Eh --
do you like my zucchinis?" Then chuckling
with glee and winking at me.

The image is of Fiona and me.

Have a comfortable night.

2 comments:

flo said...

Angela sounds like a fabulous woman, paintable. An artist friend of mine does drawings/sketches from memory each week to train his observational skills. Maybe the Barbara of the acute observational abilities can translate that into a portrait from memory.

Barbara M. said...

I wish that was true. I got your
invite today and boy I wish I could
come to your show!

Barbara

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!