The poem, the song, the picture is only water drawn from the well of the people...it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink, and in drinking, understand themselves.
Federico Garcia Lorca
My dad passed away over 3 years ago. I still think of him every single day, and every few days find myself turning to tell him something or remind myself to call to ask him something. I still feel really sad knowing he's gone, sad for my mom who misses his companionship, from a marriage that spanned 50 years. I'm lucky that when I divorced I moved only a few hours from them. I enjoyed their company enough to run home many many weekends to lick my wounds and feel better. I'm so thankful I spent so much time with them, to form a close adult relationship where they were at a point to learn from me just as I was still learning from them. I often think of my brother who lives across the country. I know that I have had this priceless time with them I feel badly for him. It's never coming back.
But he's not really gone.
I know he is watching me and I know he is proud of what I'm doing. I know he is laughing at the things my two boys do. I'm just sad that I can't see it.
About 6 months after my dad died, I started a job teaching art to dementia patients at an eldercare facility, (or "finishing school" as I like to call it).
Years before, he had encouraged me to go by there and visit a Dr. Michaux, who was a distant cousin of ours. My dad was the third Michaux in our family line and we were frequently reminded of our family history --we are after all, from Virginia. The original Susannah Rochet was a French Huguenot. The story goes that in the 1700s her father could not afford passage on a ship to escape France (because of religious persecution). He befriended a ship captain who agreed to hide her on the boat as it crossed the sea. She was hidden in a wine cask aboard the ship, at 8 years old, and later called "Little Nightcap". She arrived safely.
It was natural for my dad to want me to visit Dr. Michaux in the nursing home. But I never got around to it, and Dr Michaux passed away.
Fast forward about 15 years later. I started working in the facility and lo and behold! Guess who one of my patients was: Dr Michaux's wife, Julia! Odd, right? I spoke with her about who I was and our connection but her mind was too far gone to understand.
A few days later my manager asked me how things were going in the area that Miss Julia was in. I related the story of Dr. Michaux and told her that I couldn't believe I was teaching his wife, of all people. Suddenly my manager looked at me with fresh eyes. " You know how you're being paid, right?" she said to me. I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that I was being paid through an endowment left by a patient whose wife had taken an interest in art in later life, and he wanted to always make sure art was available at this facility. The patient that left the endowment? You got it, Dr. Michaux. Did you get chills?
How can I not see my dad's involvement in that? I think it was his way of saying how proud he is of me for sticking with my passion, no matter what. And making sure I got paid for it.
Yep, he's still around.
And there are more stories like this. Another time.
Speaking of family, my father's mother was ZouZou, and it is from her that I named my business (another story). From my other grandmother I inherited a lot of old photo albums, with mostly black and white pictures from the 1920s. I look at these old photos and wonder about about all of their stories. I am endlessly drawn to old sepia photos.
These paintings are based on some of those photos. The top photo is ZouZou and Michaux, Jr. The one here is a likeness of my other grandmother, Lucille, who was a flapper in the 1920s.