Caring has been there as a sub-text in our conversations for much of the time and in our final sessions we've brought it to the fore, asking people to look at the museum as a metaphor of their own lives. Among other approaches, we invited participants to write a museum-styled label describing someone they'd cared for.
The beauty of this exercise, it seems to me, is that it forces the writer to be concise and matter-of-fact in describing complex emotional attachments - an area where people tend to gush cliches, or become sentimental. There is a poignancy too in trying to condense an entire person into a tiny description - we all know that they're too big to fit and so the piece is more about what's left out than put in.
I particularly liked the following:
Jon (my son)
Being born – he was leaving the womb.
Lived with my wife and I for 32 years. Semi-detached home with garden. Garden with nesting boxes and bird tables.
Mental incident at 24.
Became depressed – then pulled out of it and became innovative.
Left house at 2 am one morning, felt he was in a bubble. Walked from Warrington to Stretton. Eventually realised he wasn’t in a bubble anymore and found his way home. His mind travels to places we don’t know.
|Derek with 'Mary & Peter Stubs' by J.Warrington Wood. Warrington Museum & Art Gallery|
Care- it's what you do to help, human or animal. 24/7. Maintain the quality of life to what's natural. It's hard to explain, you just do it.
My son – I always think of the worst possible time and what followed that – care. Care is a job. If it's a member of your family you'll perceive they need more care than you. But actually you need help too, you've got to look after yourself.
They know you care, but it's difficult for them to respond. Especially in a family, things are taken for granted. My son didn't appreciate us at first when he got ill. He just wanted to get better and couldn't. But when we got him to the psychiatrist he started to realise and appreciate. Put it down to one word: empathise. You have to step back and think did I do the right thing, was I caring today?