Anyu at 77…

Anyu at 77

 This is a drawing I made of Anyu one late spring day when she was 77 years old. I had just turned the corner from the main road into our driveway when I spotted her sitting on the front porch steps, basking in the sun with closed eyes, her large canvas sack beside her. Seemingly lost in reverie, she hadn’t seemed to notice my truck pull up.

I parked the truck at the back porch, skirted around the hedges surrounding the house, and walked up to her, unannounced. Her hearing couldn’t have been very acute, or maybe the nap of the lawn had quieted down my footsteps, for she had her eyes closed as I approached and then stood to look at her in silence. No wonder she was unaware of my presence; she was after all 77 years old and her senses had begun to falter. The look of unvarnished pleasure in sitting under the sun suffused her face. This love of the sun was and had been a constant in her life and had not altered in her advanced years.

 I sat down in the grass near her and waited for her to notice my presence. The sun warmed my back and heated up the backpack with my calculus stuff inside. I had just driven back twenty miles from doing the final exam in my university calculus course. It felt luxurious to sit soaking the heat up and not have to calculate how and where to fit in studying to a busy day of wifely doings.

Anyu opened her eyes and gazed about in a daze. Her glance passed over me and returned in surprise.

“Where have you been?” she asked. “When did you come back? I rang and rang the doorbell and you didn’t answer.” The querulous tone in her voice projected her displeasure.

“I was at SFU writing my final exam. I wasn’t expecting you today.”

Anyu stretched her arms and popped upright on the step. “Well, I was bored. It was such a nice day, a little bus-ride was in order. I figured I might as well come out here to see you.” Then she added, “What’s for lunch?”

“I have some left-over lentil soup from yesterday.” I said, getting up off the grass and hauling my back-pack toward the stairs. “You can have that, and I’ll also make you a sandwich. Egg salad, I think.”

“I have to watch my cholestrol. Does the lentil soup have much fat in it?” Anyu asked grabbing her sack. “And, I can’t eat eggs – too high in cholestrol. Make it a tuna sandwich.”

“Come in then. I’ll see what I can rustle up for you.”

We entered the house and dropped our bags on the coffee-table. While Anyu hunted around inside her sack I went to the kitchen to prepare her food. She followed me and sat at the kitchen table watching me hop about, making the preparations.

I worked quetly, without talking. Reheated the soup, opened and drained a can of tuna, chopped onions and pickles, buttered bread and assembled the sandwich. I mused about Anyu’s penchant for flitting about the countryside by bus in all kinds of weather and without letting anyone know about her eventual destinations. Often, she groused about arriving at some far-flung friend’s place, unexpected, and finding herself not welcome. This day she had travelled, by bus, through 4 adjacent municipalities to reach our place. This had to have taken her at least two and a half hours. Of course, because she had not let me in on her plans to visit, she was ill-informed about my doings and whereabouts. So, if she was irritated with me, I figured that a product of her bad planning.

“Let me see that tuna can.” she demanded. “I need to read the label and see the counts for cholestrol. If it is too high, I will not eat that sandwich.”

I handed her the can. She fished out her reading glasses and perused the label at length. I placed a bowl of soup in front of her and went off to plug in the kettle for tea.

“Where did you learn to make soup like this?” She said between spoonsful of the lentil soup.

“Well, not from you, Anyu,” I chortled. “you never let me touch anything in your kitchen. But I love reading recipes and anything about cooking.” Then I added,” it is the meal one does not cook for oneself that is delicious. Enjoy”

Anyu ate with gusto and polished off two bowls of soup and a whole sandwich. For a woman who prided herself on eating like a sparrow, this day’s demonstration of feasting indicated an uncharacteristic  vulture-like appetite.

I made up a pot of tea for us and took the fixings into the living-room. “Come sit in the big green chair and put up your feet. While you rest and digest, I’ll do a drawing of you.” I placed her tea-cup on the table by the chair for her. “If you want you can close your eyes while I am drawing.”

“I don’t want to look dead. Pictures of people with their eyes closed makes them look dead.” She settled herself, took a sip of tea, then patted her hair. She marshalled her energies, drew herself up stiffly and presented a dignified self for my study.

I went into instant drawing mode and drew like mad for half an hour. Anyu was silent throughout, and her facial expression registered an array of emotions, but not ones which showed any pleasure at all. The primary affect was pride overlaying dissatisfaction. Or so it seems to me that my drawing emphasized.

Whe the drawing was at a point I felt comfortable leaving off, I nudged her out of a funk by turning the drawing to face her. She studied it at length, took sips of her tea and finally commented wistfully. “What ever happened to my pretty face? I used to be so beautiful.”

“You still are beautiful, Anyu.” I reassured her. “Just different in beauty, more complex and tempered by experience.”

“Well, you can take me home now.” she said. ” I paid for my lunch by sitting for you. Let’s get going.” She finished off the last of her tea, grabbed her satchel and stood up, ready to leave.

I put aside my drawing board and charcoals, grabbed my purse and keys and led her out the back door to the truck.

On the hour-long drive to her apartment in Burnaby, she fell asleep. Once we arrived, I walked her to her door, used her keys to let her in. She yawned and reclined onto her couch. “I am so tired,” she said. “Please cover me with the afghan and let yourself out.”

I covered her, kissed her cheek and left. Driving back home in rush-hour traffic, I thought about how my day unexpectedly turned out. Anyu arriving out of the blue was surprising, but provided a break from my obsession with thoughts about calculus. This is the drawing of Anyu at 77. She may no longer drop in on me as she used to, but I have this drawing in memory of our time together.

13 Responses to “Anyu at 77…”

  1. Nita Says:

    I didn’t know you were an artist! This sketch has brought out the expression so well, one can imagine what she was thinking. It’s the face of a woman who has seen life.

  2. tugster Says:

    beautiful drawing and sentiments , and evidence that sometimes a pencil can capture what a camera cannot…

  3. lookingforbeauty Says:

    It’s a beautiful drawing and it captures her perfectly. Your mother was a real scamp! It’s wonderful that you still have this sketch of her.

  4. mariacristina Says:

    She has intense eyes, but they look sleepy too. You can see she has the fine bone structure of a beauty. Nice textured hair.

    Reading your memories made me want a nice lunch and a nap. Talk about heaven! And to have a daughter make me the lunch, draw my portrait, and then tuck me in…. Wonderful reading, G.

  5. suburbanlife Says:

    Nita – whose face do we know for a long time? Our Mother’s, and it changes profoundly as the years pass and life does something to alter the habitual expression one finds there. The eye colour fades, the forms morph with the tug of gravity. I am fortunate in having had this time to draw Anyu – she was always willing to model for me, gracious and uncritical about the quality of the drawings over the years. G

    Will – thanks. I agree, sometimes the camera cannot see what the naked eye perceives from a long relationship. G

    LFB – Anyu was a scamp, more and more so as she aged and she let her impulses rule her life without undue concern for others. I miss her predictable inpredictability which gave rise to many occasions for bemusement. G

    Christine – it seems to stick in my memory that you have boy children, as i do. I wonder if my son will make me lunch and help me to rest when I pull a stunt like this on him – for who knows what whims will rule my doings if I reach that age. G

  6. Chris Miller Says:

    The two sketches (written and chalk) are a perfect match!
    (and I’m afraid that I envy your abilities in both)

    Maybe you could show us the other family portraits you’ve done?

  7. suburbanlife Says:

    Chris – thanks for your kind, but self-deprecating comment. I have loved drawing all my life – looking at it, doing it – and now that my eyes have been failing I am trying more to use words as my tool for expression of ideas. How else to make sense of the world and experiences? G

  8. James Steerforth Says:

    Great combination of drawing and memoir!

    Sad to hear that your eyes have been failing you.

  9. suburbanlife Says:

    James – thanks for visiting and your kind comment.
    as far as failing vision is concerned, as a kind friend has pointed out, “as one door closes, another opens…” It helps to consider the loss from that way. G

  10. ybonesy Says:

    I’m glad I stopped back by today, because I don’t think your sketch of Anyu was up when I was here earlier in the week.

    Really wonderful sketch. Such determination in her face. And I love her nose. I have a bump right about the same place she does, and I’d never ever get my nose surgically fixed. That’s my best feature.

    She definitely didn’t look dead 8) .

  11. suburbanlife Says:

    ybonesy – here’s to all of us with noses that don’t tilt enticingly; those with schnozzes! I have a nose more pronounced bump than Anyu’s. My parents tried to convince me to undergo cosmetic surgery in my teens to bring me closer to the beauty ideal, but I resisted, because all the older women in our families had schnozzes and were real characters and i wanted to be one of that illustrious group.
    Anyu was called “pintyoke” which means sparrow. She was busy, energetic, persistent and everywhere – and determined. G

  12. Deborah Barlow Says:

    This is a powerful drawing G. Thank you for posting it.

  13. Collecting, Recording, Interpreting, & Sharing The Last Sensual And Sensuous Things We May See, Hear, Touch, & Feel - And A Request For Assistance For A Friend « Sexuality in the Arts Says:

    […] https://suburbanlife.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/anyu-at-77/ […]

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