Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All Dolled Up artist talk: Part Two

This is a continuation of my upcoming artist talk.....  The first part can be read here.
If anyone has any idea how to judge how long a talk will be by word count, please give me some idea.  I am sure there must be some kind of ball park figure, but Googling left me with nothing. 

When I think about those days, my life seems like some sort of carefree dream.  But, after my first year at MCA, everything changed.  The week before finals, I got an email (I had no phone at the time) from my brother explaining that my mom was in the hospital and they found a stage 4 glioblastoma tumor in her brain.  For those of you that don't know---all of those words are terrifying.  I knew already, because that is the same type of cancer that my father died from 11 years earlier.  So, it was just this horribly awful coincidence, probably combined with some environmental factors.

This is not the picture I want to include in my talk, but it is the only one of my mom I have on my computer at the moment.  I just finished going through some albums, and found a much better one, but this will have to do for now.  She is the bride.

They operated on my mom's brain, and because this type of tumor is highly aggressive, she was given a prognosis of three months to live.  I quit art school and moved back home to be with her.  I have three brothers.  Two lived near home and one moved back home from California.   Her surgery happened right at the end of spring, and so we expected to have only the summer with her.  Because she was given a terminal diagnosis, she was able to cash in on her life insurance money, so we took her to France.  I come from a very Catholic family and one of my brothers and I took her on a sort of pilgrimage to a town called Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette had visions of Mary in a grotto, and supposedly if you drank the holy water there, it could heal your infirmities.  I don't know what we expected, really.  Those first few months were very surreal.  Time felt borrowed, and passed strangely.  There was pressure to make every moment special, which made things awkward in a way, until we all found a new normal.  During that time, I actually found myself thinking of my dad a lot.  When he passed, it wasn't so difficult for me.  I was a child, and I missed him horribly.  He was a very buoyant guy who filled up the room with his charisma; and he was a great, fun, engaging father.  I just believed what everyone said about heaven.  One day he was suffering, and then the next he was in heaven, and I would see him again some day.  I understood that easily, as a child does.  Our relationship was never confusing, like how parent-child relationships get when you go past the "my mom/dad is my hero" stage.  So, in a way I never properly grieved after he died, and watching my mom go through the same thing he went through, hit me double-fold, as I am sure it also hit her.  I began looking through family photo albums.  My mom kept really great ones.  I especially loved looking at the ones from when my parents were my age.

Meanwhile, as a result of either the holy water, or aggressive, experimental treatment, or a combination of both, my mom's tumor wasn't growing back, and she was healing pretty well.  She had a horrible short term memory and couldn't go back to work, but she was volunteering at a hospital and living a pretty normal life.  I decided to stay with her and commute to school at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I was determined to be a serious artist, and that was the school for serious artists.

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