Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bea's Portrait

Bea just ate half a salmon sandwich, holding it herself. Her bed is in serious need of a change of sheets. She is singing along to Andrea Bocelli and wears a look of rapture when Lisa, her health aide, arrives.

Bea greets Lisa with a smile: “What a pretty necklace you are wearing!”

“Why, thank you. My favorite colors: teal and dark blue. I’m glad to see you awake."

After Bea is all snug in the newly made bed, Lisa points to the wall and asks, "Will you tell me a story about that painting?”

“It’s me.”

“You look so young!”

“I was young.”

“Where did you live when it was painted?”

Bea is not sure: “Montclair?”

“Your eyes are so blue.”

I hear the two of them talking and join the conversation: “It was painted by a Russian artist in New York. Remember, Mother?”

Her voice is faint but she is still all there: “I had to give up the relationship because he was too pawsy.”

"Posey?" I ask.

"Paw-sy!" Bea raises her voice, exasperated at not being understood.

Lisa: “He liked you?”

“Yup.”

“It was never finished,” I say. “After he died, someone told Mother that his widow needed money and was selling the painting. So, you went back and bought it. That was in 1942. Do you remember how much you paid?”

“$50.”

The portrait must date from the early thirties.

Bea has always called it “The Broken-hearted Look of the Twentieth Century.”

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