My father began coloring at the age of forty nine. He was in a rehabilitation center recovering from a pretty horrendous brain bleed. Physical therapy only works well if both sides of your body are not paralyzed. Speech therapy consisted of hours of frustration and the repetition of "be this, this other be back". It stands to reason that speech therapy was surely the most frustrating. Knowing full well what you want to say and no longer able to get words from brain to lips is infuriating. The third type of therapy, however, may have been the thorn in the proverbial side. Occupational Therapy.
As a child, occupation is what you want to do when you grow up. As an adult, occupation is what you do. It's the blank we fill with fancy titles. It's bragging rights. Feathers in our caps. But Occupational Therapy is none of that. In truth, it is different for every person. For my dad it was how to button shirts, how to cut his food into non-chokable parts using only one hand, or opening a screw top container. In other words, a gigantic step down from the training personnel career he held the previous month.
Sensing his growing frustration, family members and friends began bringing in things to "keep him busy." Crossword puzzles and suduko were epic failures. Magazines contained words that he could read a month ago, but no longer. Word searches were possible, but frustrating. I showed up with a book of Mandalas and a box of 64 crayolas.
The Internet boasts of magical Mandalas powers and we were all desperate for some magic. Slowly the walls of the rehabilitation unit became alive. Mandalas, colored with overqualified precision, appeared on the bulletin boards, and then on every door of every room. Visits with my dad were filled with interruptions from nurses, patients, and even doctors, all placing their requests for a Mandala of their very own.
"Be this, this other be back" may be the mainstay of my father's words, but he has found a new way of communicating. Homes of family and friends, even his physician's office, are decorated with drawings of birds, all professionally framed and matted. The "therapy" part of Occupational Therapy may have failed, but he's embraced his new "occupation."