Victoria man with dementia unexpectedly creates 113 pieces of positive art
VICTORIA -- Al will never forget the blind date and his first sight of Pat.
“She had the neatest miniskirt in the world,” Al recalls with a smile. “I fell instantly in love with her!”
Pat felt an immediate connection with Al too.
“He was such a kind and loving person,” Pat says. “He would do anything for me and anyone else.”
They got married six weeks later, on Friday the 13th. It was the only day the church was free.
“So [now] we actually celebrate on any Friday the 13th in the year,” Pat smiles. “There’s usually two of them.”
They’ve been lucky in love for 47 years. Although Al hasn’t been so fortunate in health.
“I felt wonky,” Al describes his early symptoms. “Not exactly a clinical term, but I felt wonky.”
His body was wonky and his mood too. Pat started writing reminders for him on a whiteboard so Al wouldn’t get confused. And then after an unrelated surgery Al was suddenly far more than wonky.
“It was like a totally different person when he came out of that,” Pat says.
Al was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. Pat became his primary caregiver. They managed OK, until the pandemic shut down their respite support.
“He really went downhill very quickly,” Pat says. “And I went down with him.”
The situation was looking bleak. Then one day, Pat discovered the whiteboard looking anything but.
“He had taken it and coloured the whole thing in permanent marker,” she laughs.
He wrote ‘Pat is Amazing’ and surrounded the message with shapes and colours.
The man who’d never done anything creative in his life suddenly felt compelled to make art.
“It was a release,” Al explains. “This is a medium for me to be able to express myself.”
After Pat bought her husband a bunch of multi-coloured markers, Al started expressing himself multiple times a day. He hasn’t stopped for months.
“It was life-altering,” Pat smiles. “It’s so wonderful for him.”
It’s transformed their living room into Al’s ever-expanding art gallery. There are currently 113 of the eclectic and bright posters hanging on three of the room's four walls.
They all feature recognizable phrases radiating with vibrant colours. They range from Dr. Bonnie Henry’s motto (“Be Kind. Be Calm. Be Safe.”) to novelty song titles ("Purple People Eater") to unexpected observations ("Dear Fly, Nobody Likes You").
“You need to be able to laugh,” Pat says, remembering when Al debuted the fly poster. “I think I’d lost my laughter for a while.”
Now they’ve found that’s one of the secrets to staying lucky through so many unlucky Fridays.
Perhaps the other secret is celebrating the positive. Most of Al’s work features messages like, "Follow your Bliss," "Never Give Up," and "Carpe Diem."
“Sometimes its hard to find,” Pat says. “But there’s always a sliver lining.”
“No matter how difficult the time is,” Al says. “You can overcome.”