Book Review: THE LADY IN RED by Jean Beatens

Publisher: One Thousand Trees / M & T Printing Group

Year: 2021

Pages: 78

Type: Softcover

ISBN: 978-1-988215-99-0

The Lady in Red… to my husband is wed.” – from The Lady in Red

And who is this Lady in Red, you well ask? A look at the cover of my mother’s poem anthology will provide the answer: A 1954 Bentley! She wrote a tongue-in-cheek poem for one of their wedding anniversaries. It showed the competition she had with my father’s beloved car. Of course, my mother won!

And they are still happily married to this day. Although, there are days that my mother forgets this. You see, she is now in a rest home, suffering from dementia. My father visits her every day. He reads to her. Helps her eat. And cares for her every need like a life partner should. Yes, to him, there is only one Lady in his life!

The image above was taken at my wedding in 1990.

Something happened that sparked an idea within my sister. My father found an old binder filled with poems that my mother had written over the years. Many he didn’t even know she had done! So he got into the routine of reading a few of her poems to her when he visited and she seemed to enjoy it. He made copies of them for the family. Then the idea came: Why not publish them in a book?

The picture of my Mum on the back cover of her book (above) was taken before she started to lose herself. And we, her.

While reading through the anthology, I came across a poem that Mum had written many years ago. It’s open to interpretation: Is it about the inability to express oneself, or perhaps a plea for understanding for those with mental disabilities? Either way, it certainly seems to fit the situation that my mother now finds herself in. I’ll include it below, but with a changed title, to be more politically correct:

Garden of the Mind

In the garden of my mind

are flowering thoughts so deep,

that the roots entangle, tie and bind,

entrapping them within their keep.

Tis no wonder then, I find it hard indeed,

to seek them out, and release them from this weed.

People stare and think I’m dumb,

but I’m just the same as they:

My thoughts and words, to the weeds succumb,

Making me a victim of their prey.

I try, I really do, you know,

to make the thoughts and words flow together.

But deep within the garden of my mind

the maze of paths makes it difficult to find

the flowering thoughts, held so deep…

held forever within their keep.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn’t a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia. Another symptom of dementia is difficulty communicating or finding words. It is this struggle that I see in my mother and what made me respond to this particular poem.

Apart from poetry, my mother also painted, did ballroom dancing, and knitted or crocheted. Many of our family have things she created. My wife and I are obviously big Disney fans, so she made us this:

It measures about four foot square and is monogrammed for my wife, Karen, and myself, Lee.

She even went to the extra trouble of finishing the back in a colourful pattern:

Now that took some work! I think it’s obvious that my mother had some great wherewithal and was able to apply it in so many different and creative ways. Which makes seeing her lose a bit more ground each visit so hard to deal with!

It’s a blessing to have The Lady in Red – An Anthology of Poetry as a reminder of the amazing woman who helped to spark in her son a creative spirit that has helped me to weather the storms of life! Although it seems that she has forgotten that I am that son, perhaps it is still one of those thoughts caught in the weeds of the garden of her mind.

I’d like to think so.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This book has been self-published by the family and so is not available commercially at this time. It may be available through Amazon eventually. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, limited amounts are available. Please contact Lee through this site or the Disleelandia FaceBook page. Thank you!

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