Friday, October 06, 2006
my father died on 10/7/77 at 7am. tomorrow marks the "anniversary" of his passing. he and i lived in the same house for our entire lives together, but i feel like he was a stranger. my father was a traveling salesman. he was gone from Monday-Thursday, then came home to a house that had gone on without him for 4 days. never one to show disappointment, or tenderness, or really much of anything. a jokester and a comedian, his friends were fiercely loyal. having just finished up the incredibly tumultuous teen years, i was about to move onto the stage in life where, if only for a brief span, your parents are your friends - and actually know stuff. he and i never got there together. the ensuing calamities and chaos and life-rearranging after his death played havoc with any soul-searching and reflection, till suddenly a day came in 1987 when i reached for the phone to call him with a question, and realized i was 10 years too late. too late to get to know him. his past, his hopes, dreams. all i knew was he was my father and he sold shoes. very successfully. he had brothers and sisters, but parents were never mentioned. a few years ago, i found a picture of him that was so unlike the man i knew. out on a very rare day to himself, fishing with friends. no one aboard actually fished, nor cared to. it was man-time. all salesmen who left their homes from monday-thursday and came home with their paychecks. all the men aboard that boat have since passed, as well. so i started doing a little digging. actually, it would take a large shovel. family secrets, hurts and grudges prevented a lot of information from leaking out. i have a cousin who now lives in florida who holds all the secrets she was told, and has shared them with me, as best as she remembers. there are alternating versions, depending upon which aunt or uncle told the story. my father was an incredible man, as it turns out. not only for bearing the slices and arrows my teenaged self sent out, but for what he and his brothers and sisters overcame growing up. as each layer was lifted, it was like finding a rare oil painting under years of redecorated wallpaper sheets. my grandmother passed away just before i was born, and her husband had been banished from the family. i had actually sat at a table with him 20 years ago and didn't know it. he was introduced to me as "Jake" and i thought he was a family friend. i remember thinking he looked so sad to be at such a happy occasion. grateful for the invitation, yet feeling like he should have stayed home. as i learned more and more about my father, i learned more and more about myself. like where my art comes from - both written and assembled. he was busy feeding and supporting a family. never having time to indulge in something as time-selfish as art. i vowed to dedicate all of my artistic whims to him....to never ever take for granted the spirit that flows through my hands and watches as the creation creates itself. to be incredibly grateful for the time and circumstance to be able to live my art. to the creative, to not be able to express what needs expressing is death. death of the spirit. unsettling of the mind. an obsession to pick up pots of color or hammer copper into sculpture - to give life to ordinary materials. yet my dad pushed that aside and made his life and his example his art. i cannot thank him enough for what he sacrificed for me to have a better life than he did. i can only try to live his example as a testimony, a remembrance, an affirmation that my father was a good and true man. i have that picture of him hanging in my studio, all photoshopped and collaged. but i have a better picture of him, untouched, unretouched, in my heart and in my head. every day, every circumstance, i promise him that i will try to live up to his expectations of what is good and right and decent. hug your dear ones for me. L.
at 3:27 PM