[The current posts are written by students in Memory, Aging & Expressive Arts. Partnering with U-M Geriatric Centers, Mild Memory Loss, Silver Club Programs, students have been paired with community members to create together.]
After the first few weeks of meeting, I started to get a feel for the way my community member and I would be able to interact. He had trouble with remembering things short term, misplacing the glue, needing a reminder which color we were working with. Week to week, he couldn’t recall my name or anything about me, although he seemed more comfortable working with me than he had at the beginning. It was fascinating that although he couldn’t recall the particulars of our relationship, we were still becoming more familiar with each other through some level of connection.
During the third meeting, we began piecing together a mosaic from glass and stones, forming the image of a tulip to celebrate the arrival of spring. Even while having difficulty recalling or recognizing the image we were working on, our relationship deepened and when we came back to the project the next week, it was apparent that the familiar activity helped him feel comfortable with the project and my presence.
My community partner has lived a life of amazing adventures traveling the world and following his horticultural passions running a nursery for many years. While his memories of these events are fragmented and distant, much like the particulars of our time spent together, the experiences of his life have still imprinted on him making him the kind, joyful person that he is.
On our final meeting for the class, the art show at the botanical gardens, I had arrived before my community partner and was waiting anxiously, hoping he would recognize our work among all of the projects. When he arrived I has thrilled to see him from across the room and that he recognized me and came straight over, excited to introduce me to his son. In these moments, he was the most confident and cheerful I had seen him since we started working together. He said to me “I am so happy to see you here, we have been working together for a couple weeks now and you know I can’t quite remember everything but I can feel your presence and I’m glad you are here”. I was very moved that in this moment I could be an important part of his life and the comforting presence that he needed in an unfamiliar place in order to be able to enjoy the work that everyone had made.
-Ira, UM Penny W. Stamps Art & Design 2015