”We had a complicated relationship. She had a tough childhood. When she was still a baby, her mother tried to jump out of the window while holding her. As a result, she wasn’t affectionate with me. I was nine when I made my first portrait of her. She had the most beautiful, outspoken deep eyes. I would often crawl into bed with her. She would lie, smoking cigarettes and playing pocket solitaire. She wasn’t snappy or anything. She just couldn’t show any signs of affection. I always tried to get close to her, searching for confirmation of her maternal love, but she always kept her distance. So drawing her was the closest I could get to her.
It might sound crazy, but her dementia came as a gift to me. She was in her early eighties when it started. It made her softer, sweeter, and more approachable. When I visited, she proudly showed me copies of my illustrated books translated into Japanese and told me that her daughter had made them. We spent hours in silence while she sat in her chair looking out the window while I drew her. In the past, there were many moments when I could have cut off contact, but somehow I never did. All my life, I felt somewhat incomplete. When you hold a love for someone, but you can never express that love, it’s killing you inside. So with dementia, she allowed me to get close, take care of her, and even bathe her. For the very first time, she allowed me to love her.”