To gaze at her, sitting in the wicker chair on the emerald lawn, watching the children playing tag around her, was to take me back to the visits with her when I was young. So enthralled with the scene, I would search that painting for the face of my mother amongst the women gathered near the picnic table, gingham cloth beneath the spread of potato salad, fried chicken and half-empty iced tea glasses.
But I never did. In fact none of us, save for my Grandma, was there on that emerald lawn, or at the picnic table, or in the horseshoe pit, or even on the covered porch of the farmhouse, to enjoy the curve of her lips as she smiled in that chair.
My Grandma was addicted to Valium.
Now, it was the belief of the medical community back in the late sixties and early seventies that Valium wasn't addictive, and could be dispensed at will. I don't know what circumstances first prompted my Grandma's doctor to prescribe the anti-anxiety pills so profusely, or even when, but it was later discovered that her need grew so great that she would visit more than one doctor to have her prescriptions renewed. After the family found out and tried to take them away from her, she became more secretive and would hide them in plastic bags in the toilet tank, or between the mattresses of her bed. Ironically, she did not die from her addiction but from a heart-attack many years later. Perhaps she overcame the need for the pills, I am not sure.
This is a Grandma I did not know - did not see.
She is that painted woman in the wicker chair watching over her family with the smile on her face.
The painting is long gone. So is the mall. As is my youth.
But the vision of that emerald green lawn and the wicker chair lingers on.
I miss you, Grandma.