The 32-year-old illustrator publishes a comic strip that pays tribute to her maternal grandmother, who spent the last years of her life with Alzheimer’s disease. Between memories and recipes, boleros and tutorials, the book reveals not only the unique bonds that exist between granddaughters and grandmothers, but also the importance of making old age and the legacy of older people visible in society.
“Tell me, how was school?” » Illustrator Dani Le Feuvre (32 years old) remembers that this was one of the usual questions her grandmother Tita asked her when she went to visit her in the residence where she spent the last years of her life . “Great!” Dani replied, ignoring the fact that she was already 25 years old, had qualified as a basic education teacher and was studying to pursue drawing.
Other comments showed her maternal grandmother’s loss of reality, some related to her age, others to the frequency of her visits. It didn’t matter. Following his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, allowed him to connect with her beyond the barriers of memory.
It also made the weekly visits he enjoyed so much more joyful. Not only because she could keep him company, but also because she felt that this place was a space of inspiration that filled her with ideas.
“I loved the atmosphere of the house. I thought it was full of overly entertaining characters and had a dynamic where old people became kids again. Some very beautiful stories came out, as well as others of abandonment,” he remembers.
One of these stories is the one Dani captured in the graphic novel “Tita- Advice and Matching Memories” launched Congratulations , a sort of homage to the lessons learned from this relationship. But it’s not just about them. For Dani, the story is an acknowledgment of the collective bonds between granddaughters and grandmothers that endure over time and also a call to look more closely at a generally invisible sector of society.
“I wanted to say it because I think it’s a subject that no one wants to talk about, “No one wants to tell stories about getting old, especially about people with Alzheimer’s disease. » Dany explains. “It’s not easy to have a family member with this disease. There are people who despair, they say: “How come you don’t remember me? It was much easier for me to play along and try to make his life easier. Maybe my grandmother didn’t remember my name, but she knew perfectly well who I was,” he adds.
From these visits the main idea is born, the first sketches. But the project came to fruition later, when Dani went to live in Puerto Varas and after winning a book fund. By then, her grandmother had already passed away. “I started to investigate, to interview my sisters, my mother. We connected over things I never thought we could connect. The book brought a very beautiful family record and evoked simple stories which, I think, are very universal for Chilean grandmothers,” she says.
These little stories that Dani talks about are loaded with sensory details and objects of daily life. Her grandmother’s taste for tea, a metal biscuit tin transformed into a sewing kit, autumn leaves and her passion for boleros. It even includes a songbook with lyrics to “Volver” by Carlos Gardel.
Connect the senses to memory This was intentional, the author says. “Memory includes all these senses, the theme of music for my grandmother was important and studied, it is something that is not lost. It’s beautiful. The same thing happens with touch, hands have memory,” he says.
A lifelong seamstress, her grandmother Tita continued to sew at the residence. Dani says some caregivers even asked her for help with molds to make clothes and she made them like it was nothing. “It shows how integral the human being is in terms of meaning,” he comments.
The book travels through the past, present and future through a color palette that helps the reader locate themselves in time. It was thus possible to illustrate the complications of Alzheimer’s disease and the resulting family dynamics. But also happy memories of the time when her grandmother took care of her, a job which, according to the author, Older people are not sufficiently recognized.
“Tita played a fundamental role in our care, taking care of our parents. We have so much in mind that the grandmother must be there that we forget to emphasize this aspect,” he says.
He also humorously recounts some difficult moments, like when his grandmother ran away from home and got lost for a few hours. “I tried to put myself in their place, to understand what this confusion must have been like.” . In her wallet, she had a card that my mother had made for her that said: My name is Elsa, I have Alzheimer’s disease. Anything, call these numbers. “I imagined her reading that card, realizing her confusion, and wanted to understand how she felt,” she says.
For her, we must not only be more empathetic towards the elderly, but also It is urgent to save the contribution they make daily with their experience. “I think we have to save this from the oldest cultures, turn to the wisest, take care of them and give back to them,” he says. “We owe a debt to them as a society and there is a lot of abandonment,” he adds.
Some of these contributions and lessons take shape in these pages through small tutorials and tips that the author inherited from her grandmother: how to make a pincushion, a cooking recipe book and beauty tips. “Everything that caring grandmothers pass on to us is important. I think it’s about teaching how to do things with love, with dedication, paying attention to details,” he says.
It is from this teaching that the illustrator recognizes her profession with the hands that she inherited from her goldsmith mother and in turn from her grandmother, with sewing. “I’m dedicated to this because of his creative legacy. I see a very beautiful line that she conveyed with concern in the exercise of these things,” he said.