”It was in his DNA; nobody to point the finger at but fate.”
“All we could do was wait.”
“Tony’s mind became like a cog with missing teeth. You never knew when it was going to slip next. It scared him most of all because he had to live it. It was always looming, the erosion of another tooth.”
“Until his illness, Tony’s mind was a fine tuned machine. We dreaded the breakdown and there were no tools to repair it.”
Outside the Box
“This is probably as fair a visual approximation of what Tony experienced as anything. He lost his ability to process sight but not sound. He could hear but understanding was often relative to context… and the context kept shifting as the lucidity shattered.”
“ I’m sorry I painted this as a cheerful image because the situation was anything but that. We tried to stay positive but it was not always possible.”
The Cat Watches and Waits
“Along with Bradley and me, Tony had quite a team around him: A Psychologist, Neurologist, Hospice Nurses, Chaplin and Aids, Friends and Family. The littlest member of the team was very important too. Spot, the Cat, was thrown in to a situation full of strangers and unknowns. She performed like a champ, hanging close to Tony and delighting him with her antics. The last days, she hung out either in or under the hospital bed. She knew something was wrong but stuck to her post as companion.”
“Tony always liked a good story.”
“Tony and I truly loved Science Fiction. We’d seen every episode of Twilight Zone many times. Little did we know that our lives would turn into a saga… two people, a caregiver and a cat searching for a future unassisted by either science or fiction.”
The Tony Whisperer
“I think Peggy likes this drawing a lot more than Tony did, but I could tell it pleased them both greatly when I drew it during dinner because Peggy asked for more versions.”
“For over half a year I spent my days at Tony’s side. We talked and then, eventually, only I talked but I’m certain he could hear me to the very end.”
“When Tony began to have frequent falls, we searched for a reason. First, he fell on his bike. Then he would miss a step and fall down the stairs. As the falls became more frequent a Dr. suggested that perhaps it was his vision and he should have his eyes checked. We were so hopeful that this was indeed the problem. Alas, his new glasses didn’t help”.
Guilin and Green Tea
“Every morning, Tony fixed himself a pot of Dragon Well Green Tea imported from China. Eventually, I fixed the pot for him each day. About two months after Tony died, I travelled to China to view a painting of mine being shown in an international exhibition. It was what I needed to do to get me on track in my new reality. I took Bradley’s drawings with me and worked on them as I could. I visited places where Tony and I had been thirty years before. Each time I was offered green tea, I thought of him. This painting was completed in Guilin, South China”.
Ideas Abandon Ship
“Tony was a creative thinker. It was always a pleasure to have an intellectual conversation with him. Some of our most interesting discussions were over art theory. We didn’t always agree but that was the fun of it. As time went on, our informative talks were replaced by mundane detail oriented exchanges about appointments, meds and comfort. All very important, of course, but I so missed the exchange of ideas.”
“Orbit is a word that sounds more fun than it really is. Tony was in this huge orbit and he’d done the calculations. He knew where this thing ends, but as his math skills degrade, holes got punched in his logic until he is just another lost body floating in the void.”
“There was a movie in the ‘50’s called “The Incredible Shrinking Man” about a person who shrank until he eventually disappeared. We called Tony’s disease “The Incredible Shrinking Brain” knowing that eventually it would suffer the same fate.”
Seeds and Cells
“Tony was a scientist who was always researching. As long as he was able to read, he wrapped himself in the cloak of knowledge. His specialty was identifying wood types by the shapes and patterns of the cells. It was a very sad day when he couldn’t read anymore.”
As Hard as Climbing Mt. Everest
“Whenever he got the chance, Bradley pulled out his paper and started sketching. At times, he would include things that he was pondering: The mountains of his home state of Colorado or the blooms he had seen at Olbrich Gardens that day. These made for some quirky drawings that were poignant because they meshed personal aspects of two very different men.” ~Peggy
Eye to Eye
“Tony was lost in the mystery of ”Why this Death”. His faith in science was rock solid but the deeper he dug the less data turned up, leaving him unable to make a correlation between what happens now and what happens next.”
“Tony had wit like a Prize Fighter in a championship bout who just kept punching, except his gloves were now melted ice cream and the referee was passed out in the corner drunk on Absinthe.
“When Bradley started drawing he was using a sketchbook he carried with him. I cut or tore old papers for him to use. Sometimes there were smears or smudges which be came part of the whole”.
R U Real?
“Are You Real? The biggest denial was from Tony himself about what was best for him. If it wasn’t medicine from the 1950’s, Tony didn’t want to take it, but when he did, it really helped. ”
“We pursued both traditional and alternative treatments. He knew he had nothing to lose. Along with marijuana and antidepressants, we tried psychology, reiki, acupuncture, tuning forks, CBD oil and more. Marijuana was the most effective for his anxiety and discomforts.”
“For me, this was a day when the drawing was just practice shapes to push forward time while we kept vigil until it stopped.”
“There were times when Tony thought he was going insane and, in fact, he was losing his mind. It betrayed him by shrinking and leaving areas empty as an attic with only cobwebs inside.”
Hell No, I Won’t Go!
“This is Tony on his deathbed two days after they said should be his last. I drew the sign but left it blank to let Peggy tell the story of why. ”
“Tony was a resistor during the Vietnam war. He had a low draft number and we lived in fear that he would be called up. Finally he was exempted for being underweight but I was always concerned that the weight loss would come back to haunt him. It never occurred to us that his body would stay strong and instead his brain would fail. ”
“Tony started to resent getting old around the age of 50. This came from his father who acted old even when he wasn’t and his mother who thought aging was the dirtiest trick in the book. Up until the day that he fell off his bicycle we denied that he might eventually be facing serious health problems. It was hereditary, but not necessarily inevitable. He just lost the lottery.” ~Peggy
The Cat Messes with Tony’s Head
“Tony loved the cat. He named her “Spot” after Data’s cat in Star Trek, The Next Generation. For the last 5 months Tony was sure we had two “kitties”… a full size and a miniature. He didn’t think it was at all strange that he never saw the two of them together. This is when I learned to just roll with the reality that he was living in and not try to impose my reality onto him.”
“Sometimes the drawing wasn’t about Tony. Sure, it was a ‘Tony Drawing’ but the format was self-referential to the perspective of the artist. I just drew what I saw in my day and tried to connect dots that made sense to the caretaking. ” ~Bradley
“Tony’s humor, personality, intelligence, sweetness … all of him was being sucked away.” ~Peggy
Anger Reared Its Ugly Head
“In the last half year of his life, Tony suffered terrible anger and anxiety attacks. The only thing that would consistently calm him was a little pot. The effect was immediate and dramatic. I am a strong proponent of legalization of marijuana”
The Cat Knows All
“Tony was like a laser with his focus. The only problem was he didn’t have control of the on/off toggle.”
“The cat was a “rescue” who joined our household about 9 months before Tony passed away. I got her because Tony loved cats and hadn’t been able to have any for decades due to my allergies. She sat with him for hours. He would wake and be delighted that there was a purring kitty with him. She knew her job was to give comfort. He named her “Spot” because he could remember that.”
“This image started with three life drawing sessions, as well as a little emotional self projection into Tony’s expression. Tony was sad, but it usually manifested as frustration. What is seen here, (my process and Peggy’s color) is the caregivers expression of grief piled on top of the patient’s defiance.” ~Bradley