Monday, April 19, 2010

Garden Party

Leslie Lormann invited me to attend a turn of the century garden tea party which was held at The Heritage at Lake Forest. The Heritage is an assisted living facility. Only a few weeks before I had visited my step mom, Ruth, as she was moved to a nursing home in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. As I searched for Ruth in the halls of that facility, I found one resident was unable to get into the common room because a slight molding blocked her wheelchair from going through the doorway. I gave her a gentle shove and she was in. As I walked the halls, many residents were comatose unable to move in any way. They sat idly in wheel chairs or in bed, staring blankly into space. The smell of urine and decay bought back memories I had of visiting my grandmother, Josephine, when I was perhaps eight years old. I have since heard that my mom has been put on morphine because she was in so much pain from the bone cancer, and is no longer able to get around on her own. In other cultures the elderly are respected and revered. In America being old seems to make you disposable and insignificant.
When I entered The Heritage, I was shocked to find myself in a turn of the century tea party with all the women sporting gorgeous exotic hats. Leslie was dressed as Mary Poppins with a white dress and hat accented with a red belt and ribbons. Her husband, Matt, stood in the entry to the building taking pictures of residents in their finery. I wandered from room to room trying to decide where I should sketch. I finally decided that the photos being shot at the grand staircase were the center of interest. I climbed to the top of the stairs and started sketching. From this vantage point I could see the full effect of all the ovals of the highly decorated hats the women were wearing.
There were several other artists on property demonstrating their art doing easel paintings. There was a harpist who performed in the back parlor. After I finished this sketch I went back and listened to her play. There were perhaps 30 residents listening intently. I decided I didn't have enough time to sketch this whole gathering, so I waited for the singing that was going to take place upstairs. There residents gathered in a large room with an Italian landscape fresco gracing the wall. The piano player turned out to be Erik Branch who also plays at the Parliament House Karaoke on Sunday afternoons. The female singers were lively and entertaining. Theresa Segers had a quick costume change for the last number and came out in a red and white striped single piece turn of the century bathing suit. She of course then sang, "By the Sea."
As I got in an elevator to head back downstairs, a resident with a walker got in with me. She asked how I liked the event and I told her I was impressed. She said it was all very nice and they hold similar events every month or so for the residents. She said "This is the best nursing home in the area and I certainly pay for it." I'm left feeling guilt that I can not afford to help find my step mom a better nursing home.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Caroline said...

Thanks for your- as usual unbiased and honest reportage.
We have a similar scenario in England, and in France too, I think. But there's a growing awareness of the shortcomings of some care homes for the elderly. Perhaps we'll see improvements over the coming years.

Thor said...

With baby boomers aging the care of our elderly will reach a breaking point if changes aren't made.