Roughly 12 months ago 81 year old Kathleen was told her heart was like a rusty gate. That she had maybe a few days left, a few weeks – or perhaps even a few months. Who could tell?
These days she leans against her white picket fence swapping anecdotes with me about the benefits of a good sharp pointy stick and how to get rid of annoying old men.
Kathleen is Awesome (with a capital A). Occasionally, her neighbour who lives in the flat above her leans over his balcony and joins in the conversation. This Sunday he shared most of the artwork that hangs on his walls by dangling them over the balcony for us to admire. Kathleen says what she thinks, when she feels like it. She’s honest, sharp and warm. I wouldn’t want to be at the wrong end of an argument with her. She tells of a time that a kid knocked out her walking cane from under her. She tracked him down and beat the little creep with her stick until her shocked husband pulled her away. Kathleen’s my type of lil ‘ol lady!
A while ago I saw her with her hair bundled up in rollers, and the image stuck. There was a painting lurking in that. I finally caught her one day with the same get up, took a photo and rushed off to see where inspiration would take me.
She once told me a story of a bloke around the corner who leaves her a pair of bananas on her doorstep every now and then. ‘Lovely guy, but I won’t let him sit on my furniture – he’s a bit on the nose and he doesn’t always do his laundry…’
The image stuck.
Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t particularly pleased with my rendition of Kathleen’s Admirer. I had paint issues, a tantrum (naturally) and messed things up a bit. It annoyed me so much that last Tuesday I raced round to Kathleen’s and gave it to her – better off out of my house than niggling at me at home.
Kathleen in true form was hiding in the shadows and sent her cleaning lady out to see who I was… When she realised it was me she popped out and screamed with laughter when she saw it…
‘Oh my! I hope I’m not as ugly as that!!!’ she squealed, after explaining she thought I was someone much more horrible.
I trundled off feeling a little deflated… my art gets called a lot of things, but it’s always a bit of a downer – particularly when it’s your subject matter. I felt that maybe she hadn’t liked it, in the same way I hadn’t and she’d picked up on all my mistakes and dramas…
2 hours later she rang and apologised profusely…. “ I am soooo… sorry. You have no idea how overwhelmed and amazed I am! I want to take you and your son out to dinner – it’s the most amazing thing anyone has ever done for me.”
As the days passed by, and Kathleen squinted at it from her outlook on the couch, the image grew on her. So much so, that by Sunday she announced… ‘I love it that much, I’m going to change my will to make sure I get buried with it!’
It was my turn to be overwhelmed. She told me that every time she looks at it, she sees a little bit more of her in it… But in true Kathleen fashion there’s a smattering of brutality to season the compliments with – ‘My daughter doesn’t like it at all!”
Well, you can’t please everyone – now that’s a fact!
Thank you Kathleen, for your naughtiness, sense of humour and just being you.