Alberto Giacometti, The Artist's Mother Seated I (1965) Lithograph. (c) 1992 ARS, New York/ADAGP, Paris.
Alberto Giacometti, The Artist’s Mother Seated I (1965) Lithograph. (c) 1992 ARS, New York/ADAGP, Paris.

The pneumatic mattress massaged her skin; there were pads between her knees, and they had a hoop over them to prevent the sheets from touching; another arrangement stopped her heels touching the draw-sheet: but for all that, bedsores were beginning to appear all over her body. With her hips paralyzed by arthritis, her right arm half powerless and left immovably fixed to the intravenous dripper, she could not make the first beginnings of a movement.

“Pull me up,” she said.

I dared not, all by myself. I was not worried by her nakedness any more: it was no longer my mother, but a poor tormented body. Yet I was frightened by the horrible mystery that I sensed, without in any way visualizing anything, under the dressings, and I was afraid of hurting her. That morning she had had to have another enema and Mademoiselle Leblon had needed my help. I took hold of that skeleton clothed in damp blue skin, holding under the armpits. When Maman was laid over on her side, her face screwed up, her eyes turned back and she cried, “I am going to fall.” She was remembering the time she had fallen down. Standing by the side of her bed I held her and comforted her.

We sat her up again, carefully propped with pillows. After a moment she exclaimed, “I have broken wind!” A little later she cried, “Quick, the bedpan.” Mademoiselle Leblon and a red-haired nurse tried to put her on to a bedpan; she cried out; seeing her raw flesh and the harsh gleam of the metal, I had the impression that they were setting her down on knife-edges. The two women urged her, pulled her about, and the red-haired nurse was rough with her; Maman cried out, her body tense with pain. “Ah! Leave her alone!” I said.

I went out with the nurses. “It doesn’t matter. Let her do it in her bed.”

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