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A Portrait of the Artist as a 93-Year-Old Man

March 12, 2015

A few days after I returned from a recent visit to see my grandfather, he called me.20150223_114534

“When are you coming back?” he asked. I laughed, the laundry from my trip still in the hamper.

Life is getting harder for Papa. Nearing 94, his body is wearing down while his daily pill count is going up, resembling a bag of Skittles. His mind is still sharp, though the edges have softened. Like many elderly, his days are the same, mirror images of the one before. One burden of growing older is feeling like there’s nothing to look forward to, so it’s no surprise many elderly take 20150225_104608anti-depressants.

During this last visit, on a whim I placed a piece of white paper and black marker in front of Papa. Then I put a glass vase filled with roses on the table. “Draw this,” I told him.

“What do I know from drawing?” he said. The only thing my grandfather ever drew was a list of which customers at his grocery store owed him money.

“Just try,” I said. He lifted the marker; his arthritic knuckles gripping it gently. Then he rested his h20150309_110433ead in his left hand and drew. I wasn’t expecting Picasso. I wasn’t expecting anything more than what the exercise might give him. Papa finally put down the marker. It wasn’t Picasso. It was better. Because for those few minutes he forgot about the aches and pains, about his time coming to an end and the horrible memories still struggling for space inside his head.

“Excellent!” I told him, and stuck it to the fridge. The next day he drew a white porcelain figurine of a rooster. Before I left I told him to keep drawing. And he has. Daily pictures and videos are sent to me of the artist in residence. Although Papa draws with his head heavy in his hand, while he creates he forgets about everything else. He now has a new focus.

Having a project can often help us get through whatever struggles we may face, no matter if we’re 19 or 93.


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  1. Jamie Barr permalink


  2. Marilyn Solomon permalink

    Love it!

  3. Sue Eleftherakis permalink

    Beautiful observation and suggestion from a loving granddaughter.

  4. Sharon Lustgarten permalink

    Great article. Such a smart idea for your Poppa and he’s a pretty good artist!!

  5. Deborah Golden permalink

    Okay. Tears are running down my cheeks. That is beautiful.

  6. Joe F permalink

    You are a pretty good amateur therapist. Granddaughters are the BEST !

  7. mark schwartzbaum permalink


  8. Felice, what a wonderful gift you have for communication – both in writing and in conversation. A brilliant idea to engage your grandfather and give him an activity which is, in many ways, spiritual. Just lovely, Felice. Just lovely!

  9. shelly cohen permalink

    Every time I think of you and papa, I am reminded of the quote” child is the father of man”. So beautiful a read and so beautiful a granddaughter. You can get papa to do about “anything”…thanks for helping papa in every way………mom

  10. Diann B permalink

    Brilliant absolutely brilliant Felice, hope you’re around as I grow old!

  11. untie M permalink

    You’re awesome Felice!

  12. Shelly Cohen permalink

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

  13. Holly Shuman permalink

    Hey buddy, I just LOVE anything you write about this sweetheart of a man. He’s incredible, inspiring and so so special . Just wanted to say hi and tell you how warm and fuzzy all my memories of your family are. I’ll never forget our grocery delivery to the naked old sisters. Love you, Holly >

  14. edes gilbert permalink

    so touching……..

  15. Tom Olverson permalink

    Love this piece, Felice! You can still find meaning in life even at age 94!

  16. Ricchard aberson permalink

    What an inspired idea this is!

  17. Simply amazing! Both you and your papa!

  18. Ali permalink

    Felice, thanks so much for sharing this… you have no idea how it touches me!! I sure wish I could meet your grandfather…I would love to see what he draws if you ever wanted to share. Muchp blessings to the both of you 🙂

  19. Dana Arschin permalink

    so cute, such a great idea! xo

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