Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Impeccable Timing for the Barefoot, Bohemian Madonna

Impeccable Timing for the Barefoot, Bohemian Madonna
Judy Takács

Marilyn was apprehensive at first. 

She happened upon the exhibit of all my chicks paintings at Tri C Gallery East in November of 2015. After seeing the paintings and chatting with Gallery Director, Terry Patton, Marilyn approached me about posing.

I am always excited to have a willing participant, and we agreed she would come to my studio the morning of December 4th to pose. I wrote it on the giant monster calendar in my kitchen… the Takács equivalent of setting it in stone.

During the next few weeks, however, my world made a seismic shift. 

In ordered bullet points here’s what happened in late November 2015…

• My 91 year old dad collapsed with a duodenal ulcer and was hospitalized

• My 82 year old mom’s cancer came back and she was hospitalized.

• Two parents in the hospital, mom in the cancer ward, dad in the general ward; me there every day.

• Because of his severely weakened condition, my dad would have to go to a skilled nursing rehab facility for physical therapy first if he was ever to return home again.

• Because of my mom’s returned cancer, it became clear that she would not be able to care for him at home. 

• Thursday, December 3, 2015 I helped my dad transfer from the hospital to the rehab facility. I labeled his clothes, hung family photos, and posted important phone numbers (mine included). I tried to make this unfamiliar place cozy, always reassuring him that my mom would come see him the next day.

• My mom was to be discharged from the hospital on Friday, December 4th, with my sister coming to bring her home. They would then go visit my dad at the rehab facility.

• Since my sister was able to take a day off from work for parent duty that day, I planned to keep my appointment with Marilyn for Friday, December 4th at 10:00 a.m. that same morning…dates on my calendar were set in stone after all. 

• 6:00 a.m. Friday, December 4, 2015 My dad calls me. He had a very rough night. He hates the rehab facility. It’s noisy.  The staff were talking all night outside his room. His roommate had the TV on all night. Please, can I come get him and take him home. He was rational, polite and emphatic…and, because his mind had continued to work perfectly, he knew how little his body was working for him anymore. 

I knew “home” wasn’t an option…he literally couldn’t sit up in bed he was so weak. But I said I’d drive over and see him at least.

• 6:30 a.m. Friday December 4, 2015, I was by his side at the rehab facility. I got him ginger ale, talked to his nurse about his anxiety and concerns and I made sure he was comfortable. He calmed down a bit. I told him to focus on the fact that my mom was to visit that afternoon with my sister.
After the turmoil of growing up in war-torn Hungary, once my dad settled in safe and comfortable Ohio, he didn’t adjust well to changes and discomforts. My mom had a way of talking off the ledge though…so to speak. Once she was there and able to visit each day, things would be better. I envisioned a new normal for them with my mom only having to care for herself at home, without the added strain of having my dad to care for. She could visit him every day for love, without exerting the physical labor of care.

And then I told him that I have to go because I had a model coming over to pose.

So, I bid him good-bye, reminded him that my mom and sister would be coming that afternoon and came home to do my Chicks photo shoot with Marilyn.

Marilyn was a delight to work with. Barefoot, she wore a Bohemian skirt, flowers in her hair, and two symbolic necklaces.  One pendant featured Mary, Our Lady of Guadaloupe; the Madonna to represent her strong Catholic faith. The other pendant was a symbol of the Goddess … Mother Earth, to show her love of nature and all creatures. 

As we were finishing up the shoot, my sister called. She had just brought my mom home from the hospital when my dad’s rehab center called. My dad was unresponsive…unconscious.  Apparently he’d had a heart attack. They called 911, they inserted a breathing tube (against my Dad’s DNR wishes) and he was taken to the hospital…again. 

• WTF. I just saw him 2 hours ago. 

• So, I went back to the hospital… again… this time with a mission. I knew like I’d never known before that now was my dad’s time to go. He was not meant to linger in a bed, weakened, hooked up, taped up, tubed up…alive for the sake of not being dead. It was his time to go (he was 91…unable to move much at all and had a heart attack…how much more clear could the signs be?). Swift and effective modern medicine prevented the inevitable from happening. So now it was up to my mom, sister and I to have the courage to make the call to let him go. 

And so we did.

And the doctors thanked us for making the reasonable and kind choice to remove his life support. They also reminded us that this was not euthanasia…euthanasia is not a legal healthcare option in my state. We were respecting my dad’s wishes that his body not to be maintained on life support and obeying my dad’s orders on his DNR form. This was an attempt by the hospital to absolve themselves of a wrongful death lawsuit and to absolve us of guilt…though, I’d feel way more guilt forcing him to live on life support because I didn’t have the courage to do what was right. 

This turn of events (and my mom’s death six months later) inspired my painting, Guardian Angel of the Good Death and the Serenity Prayer series.

We said I love you. We said Good Bye. The breathing tube was removed and my mom, my sister and I watched as my dad, peacefully, gently and swiftly pass from this world. 

It was time. It was for the best. It was painful and it was sad. It was also elegant timing because we could all be there when he passed.

My dad’s passing also granted my mom’s secret wish…one that we were all thinking since her cancer diagnosis four years ago…that she outlive my dad. Now she could focus on her own health and comfort without worrying what was to become of him when she was gone. She was strong enough to bear her life without him. He would not have been able to bear his life without her.

Marilyn’s timing was impeccable.  I thank her for being the beautiful distraction on that fateful morning where timing was everything and we said goodbye to my dad with peace, elegance and grace. 

What about the Donkeys and Goats?

Marilyn has a farm…a barnyard called “Klassy Kids,” with goats and miniature donkeys. These hoofed beauties are her passion and her full time job. The creatures of Klassy Kids are therapy animals and Marilyn often hosts families of children with special needs who benefit from the unconditional love they get from these gentle animals. 

I knew her animals needed to be part of Marilyn’s Chicks portrait.

I went to visit her collection of hoofed cuties on a gray winter day with a peaceful snowfall. It was a quiet respite from the dizzying events of early December 2015, which were safely behind us. 

And, though neither one of us knew what the upcoming year would hold, (we were both to lose our precious moms in 2016) I knew that a fascinating painting with the delightful Marilyn was still ahead of me, and that brought me great comfort during a time of great turmoil.