A Quote, A Definition, and A Discovery

The Quote:

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams.”

Vincent Van Gogh

For many, many years I have carried around a greeting card with that quote on it, and for those same many, many years I have used it to beat myself over the head as an artist. I don’t dream of painting, I’m actually one of those people who rarely remember their dreams. I took that quote quite literally, like the children of The Night Before Christmas, but instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head I thought I should be conjuring up great works of art.  I paint from my photographs and sketches. There are gifted artists who can imagine worlds of their own creation, I’m just not one of them when it comes to painting, and quite frankly I’m not sure Van Gogh was either. He painted what he saw in front of him, from sketches he made of places he’d been, or places he lived, and maybe a little dreamy magic. I seem to have a gift for getting in my own way as an artist. I tell myself I’m failing at it, or somehow don’t have the right to call myself one. That leads me to…

A Definition: (Thank you Google)

art·ist
ˈärdəst/
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
I started drawing at a very young age, I began to paint at twelve, and I sold my first piece at fifteen. Did I call myself an artist? Yes I did, at least in the beginning, but then the self doubt began to creep in. There’s the “I’m not good enough” monster that resides in my brain. I mentioned the monster back at the beginning of this blog four years ago. I was under the illusion that I had defeated it, but I haven’t and thought I couldn’t. I’ve spent a lifetime with this constant companion; it lives inside me as much as every other part of me. I think part of my artistic problem is last I’m living in the land of “Supposed To”. In my mind an artist was always a painter and a skilled technician in drawing or sculpting.  I realize that’s ridiculous. Read the definition. I should have it tattooed on my forearm so that every time I feel the monster raise its ugly head I can read it myself. I think that from a very young age I thought that I had to paint to call myself an artist. The reality is that I have no problem acknowledging the art of others and giving them the title, I just have a problem with myself.  Which leads me to…
The Discovery (actually discoveries):
I haven’t posted on this blog as of late because I had no work to post. Have I been working?  Yes, I have been working every single day.  The problem (in my own mind) is that I haven’t been painting. What I am about to write is so absurd that I can’t believe it myself. I have been embarrassed to call myself an artist because of the work I have produced. There, I said it out loud. I have spent the last several weeks producing work for a show, a show that calls itself an “Artisan Walk”. Was I invited to be part of the show because I am a talent-less hack? Nope, I am just being me again and getting in my own way.  I gave all of this a great deal of thought yesterday. Much of the thought was inspired by an outing with a dear friend on Sunday. This dear friend has a tendency to be highly critical of me, but when he saw what I have been producing he called me a genius. My discovery is this: I don’t dream of painting, but I have very magical and enchanting visions when I am awake. It involves fairies. That’s right, fairies. I have been making them for more than twenty years, and it has been my greatest financial success as an (dare I say it?), artist.
My second discovery or better yet realization is that as much as might dream of painting, I am more compelled by anything in my life to make children happy. I love creating enchanted worlds, of inspiring little ones to use their own imaginations, and to hopefully give them a moment of magic in a world that can be a very difficult place. I have loved the idea of fairies since childhood. At the last show I did I was approached by a woman much older than myself who was so excited by my work. She spoke to me of growing up in England near a forest. She and her sisters would play at the edge of the woods. Their mother would tell them tales of fairies, and leave them “fairy notes” tucked in tree trunks and flowers. While she was speaking to me her face took on a faraway look, as silly as it might seem in that moment she looked like a little girl again, lost in the memories of her youth.
I may never produce the masterpiece that I thought I was supposed to do, and in the years after I am gone no one may see my work hanging in a museum, but I have no doubt that in the imagination of many children I have planted a seed that they will hopefully remember and pass on.
If you happen to be in or near Fallbrook, CA on April 23rd, I will be at The Artisan Walk on Alvarado as part of the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Stop by and say hello.

My Prayer To Father Time

And it came to me then,

That every plan,

Is a tiny prayer to father time.

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “What Sarah Said”, by Death Cab for Cutie. The last time I posted was January 3rd about my plans for the New Year, and my hopes that I would be creating. Alas the universe said, “Not so fast.” Have I created? Yes, of course I have because for me its like breathing. Unfortunately for me my other great talent in life seems to be finding ways to not be well, or to injure myself. I had spent December 30th in the ER because of unexplained chest pain. Long story short…in my own anxious little way I am well on my way to an ulcer. That discovery came only after many doctor visits and tests. That was January. February brought its own delights. Another Urgent Care trip, and from there to the ER again. I’m fine. Well at least I was until I got bronchitis. Oh, its March, and as I told everyone last week the Urgent Care and ER people were missing me and wondering where I was, so I sprained my ankle. I kid you not.

I had spent the latter end of December cleaning out and reorganizing my studio for the grand plans for 2017. I finally tried to work in there yesterday and now can’t remember where I put anything. Fortunately I also have a wonderful ability to laugh at myself. Go ahead, I know I have it coming. Last summer I went to see a doctor for my thumb which had broken and wasn’t healing well. The doctor gave me a cortisone injection in my right thumb (OUCH), I left his office and drove to pick Dan up from the airport where I closed the door on my left hand and broke a finger. Seriously. My friend Denise says she really isn’t laughing at me but with me. Which is true because it’s about all I can do.

Onward to art! In between doctor visits I actually did work a little. At my daughter’s request I created all the Peanuts characters for my grandson’s first birthday. Creating poster board sized characters for my kids birthday’s was always a tradition. I also wrote and illustrated a children’s book. I gave Timmy my first copy as a birthday gift.  I still need to tweak a few things before I’m ready to move forward with it. I’ve also sorted through piles and piles of paper that I’ve accumulated for inspiration and ideas. As I mentioned above, my studio is cleaned and very organized with the exception of labeling several boxes so I can actually find my supplies!

So here’s to My New Year, commencing today March 6th, with a little prayer to Father Time.

To Whom It May Concern,

April will be here before you know it. I’d like to not see the inside of a doctor’s office, an Urgent Care, or ER. I’m praying you’ll give me a break, and by that I don’t mean any bones.  I promise to look where I’m going, to stop worrying about every single little thing, and to continue to amuse myself at my own expense.

Finally, I include a piece of art from right around the holidays. My daughter Jessica had taken a photo of my son’s beautiful girlfriend, Olivia. From the moment I saw it I knew I had to paint it. I finished it in time for Brian’s Christmas gift, a portrait of Olivia in watercolor.

Hello, I’m still here

img_5811A new year, a fresh start. I am not a New Year’s resolution type of person. Why? I rarely keep promises I make to myself as evidenced in the fact that it has been nearly a year I believe since I’ve attended to this blog. It isn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, I always have a lot to say, I think I just needed to step away. What had started out to be a blog about art turned into a far too personal glimpse into my life. There’s an anonymity when you sit behind the keyboard that allows for a false sense of security. While I was well aware that family and friends, as well as friends of friends, were reading my heartfelt musings, I never thought about the people I didn’t know. I didn’t worry about running into someone at the grocery store and having them throw every painful word in my face. That has changed. When we left our other house and downsized into our new home I struggled with what I saw around me. Still reeling from the aftershock of job loss we were anxious to move on and start fresh. In many ways I think it blinded us to the monumental amount of work needed in the new place. It has been more than a year and a half now. There is still work to be done, but this is now home. Unfortunately with this home came an enormous problem. A neighbor, one who has sought out me on the internet and found these pages. I have been told stories by other neighbors as well as the local police of her behavior. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I don’t believe that her mental state is as bad as what I have been told. There is much too much that gives her away. She is the person I refer to when I write about my words being used against me. She has gone as far as to scream awful names at me simply on sight, to tell me that my art is “shit”, and to cause small amounts of damage in my garden, however, nothing is worse than the screaming of nasty things at me about my deceased father. I have learned a very painful lesson. I have revealed too much. So here I sit, no longer anonymous but determined to not let her get in my way. I started this entire project as a way to essentially blackmail myself into working on my art. A promise made to the universe instead of to myself. I did it for a year. I did it every single day. So yes, I am still here, and I’m not going anywhere. I made an attempt to recapture that year once before and failed. Not this time. Not a resolution but a determination to do what I was meant to do…create! No time lines this time, and certainly not posting every day, but a return to the studio and a promise to share what happens in there and for the moment nothing beyond that. Wish me luck. I’ll be back soon.

…You didn’t think it would be this fast did you? Actually I’ve decided to attach a piece of art to this post. The one amazing thing that came out of 2016 is my grandson, Timmy. He is a very elfin little fellow and I was compelled to make him into one. A piece for today, Timmy the Elf.

Lessons Learned

It’s been five months now since my Dad passed away. I of course still miss him daily. I find myself unable to see elderly men out alone, it reminds me of his loneliness, and that is difficult for me. I recently had to leave the produce section at the grocery store because there was a man of a similar age shopping alone. It moved me to tears. I found myself wondering if he had family, or if he was alone in this world. In Sunday’s New York Times there was an extensive article about a man named George Bell. He had died alone at home, discovered only because of the odor that began to escape his apartment. The article told of the procedures involved when the police discover situations such as George’s, but it also shed a little light on George and his life. George may not have had anyone in his last moments, but his story will stay with me, and in that he won’t be forgotten.

When you lose both of your parents issues of your own mortality come to the surface. You become the oldest generation in your family. It’s an odd feeling. Many years ago someone (who shall remain nameless since she seems to go out of her way to say not nice things) told me I was a bad mother. Why? Because I was too close to my children, and that in the end that would hurt them. I hadn’t yet lost a parent at the time. I sort of get it now, but I don’t agree. When you’re a parent the hardest thing in the world is to see your child hurt or in pain. It’s intolerable. Knowing the pain that my Mom’s death caused, and the recent loss of my Dad (more about that below), what troubles me most isn’t that I’ll die, but its knowing that my own children will suffer at my loss. The one pain in their lives I cannot heal. When I saw Titanic I wasn’t moved by the love story of Rose and Jack (they quite frankly could have gone down with the ship and I wouldn’t have cared…no offense Leo and Kate), what did move me, and resonate with me, was the scene of the Irish woman in steerage putting her children to bed knowing that they were going to drown and that there was nothing she could do about it. I can’t imagine her pain. Where I disagree with what my anonymous critic said is that as much pain as I felt eight years ago (and still do) and am currently feeling about my Dad, I wouldn’t trade my relationships with them for anything. My Mom knew I loved her more than anything, My Dad knew I loved him, and worried about him, and I knew that they loved me. Were they perfect parents? No, none of us are. They were human, but they both had a tremendous capacity for love and gave it to their four daughters. Would my pain be less if they were absent parents, or abusive parents? I don’t necessarily think so. I think that it actually might be more painful to lose someone and spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what you did that they treated you as such. I have spent nearly thirty-one years as a mom. I have spent all of those thirty-one years trying to show as much love to my daughter as possible, and twenty-five years with my son. I am not a perfect parent, and like all families we have had our moments, but I know without a single ounce of doubt that my children will always know how much I love them, and that means I’ve done my job.

When my mother died eight years ago it sent me into a tailspin of grief. It was like being at the bottom of a well without a ladder or rope to climb. Long periods of sobbing, and of questioning myself with all the “what ifs”. Eventually I sought counseling, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My Mom’s death served as a catalyst for much needed changes in me. I guess you could look at it as her final gift to me. I came out of that mourning as a stronger, more open, and determined woman.

My Dad’s final gift to me? I tend to be a loner. I always have been. I am not someone with a large circle of friends.  I mentioned here before how much I talked to him on the phone. I have come to realize that I wasn’t just filling his time so that he wasn’t lonely, but my own as well. I need to put myself out there in the world a little more. Twenty years from now I don’t want my children to feel the need to call me incessantly because they don’t want me to be lonely, or God forbid because they are lonely. I want them to learn from this and keep friends in their lives. I also hope they will learn from me to find the strength within them that my Mom’s death gave me, but to find it now when they are younger.

Finally, reading the story of George Bell on Sunday gave me pause for thought. Instead of running from the produce aisle in tears, I think next time I see what appears to be an elderly person alone, I will engage them in conversation. I’ve done it before, and maybe mentioned it before, but I had an elderly friend. Someone with family, but family that was disinterested at best. Her name was Hattie Klipp, she died at 104. My kids remember her from when they were much, much younger. Hattie was very dear to me, a substitute grandmother in many ways. I met her when I worked in a grocery store. Lesson three, this one comes from me. You never know what gift you will find when you reach out to someone else. I highly recommend it.

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Stepping Away

It has been two months since I last wrote on these pages. I considered labeling this post as “Running Out Of Words”, but the truth is I haven’t. I think maybe I was too sad to share, or that what I felt was far too personal. As I mentioned in a previous blog this was never intended to be such a personal and revealing account of my life. I began it in a search for self fulfillment, a way of forcing myself to tend to my own needs after a lifetime of being everything for everyone else. It has also had unintended consequences, one of those being that some people who read what I write think they know me. Yes, there have been very deep heartfelt thoughts on these pages, and a very personal glimpse into my life, but there is much more to me than what you might read and assume. I also discovered that there are two people “looking” for me on a website that reveals people who are searching for you. I have no way of knowing if it is as I suspect a sales pitch to get me to purchase “Protection”, or if someone has garnered enough information from the web to decide to look further. Either way it creeps me out. One of the names is of a woman, the other a man. I looked them up. The male exists, has a Facebook page, and I have no idea who he is or why he would look me up. Like I said, creepy. The female lives in Florida, and until recently I knew no one living there. That one is unnerving for me, especially in these days of identity theft.

As for my sadness, four months have passed since my Dad passed. There is still an aching hole that will take some time to heal. I think I realize that it never will, because it’s right next to the one that has been there for eight years, the one created by losing my Mom. That post would be titled, “Running Out Of Words”, because sometimes it hurts too much to be crafted into a coherent sentence.

People say, “Life moves on.” and it does. I’m going to be a grandmother. The immense joy that the news brought to my heart is again difficult to put into words. I will of course unfortunately have to be a grandma from the other side of the country, but these days of social media make that a much easier pill to swallow, and I can guarantee that my daughter and son in law will get to know the postman very personally.

Finally there is this, the much promised return to what this was all meant to be about…art. Our dear friends and former Chicago neighbors are themselves relatively new grandparents. Their new joy lives even further than mine, he resides in New Zealand. Our daughters grew up together, and will now be moms within a year of each other. Life does move on. While looking at Facebook I came across a photo on Nicole’s page that stirred something in me that hasn’t been there in some time. It is a photo of her baby and his father. The baby is beyond adorable, the word (as weird as it is) that comes to my mind is “scrumptious”. He is so damn cute I could eat him up, but it was John, and the look of love and tenderness that really spoke to me. I’ve never met John, but that photo speaks volumes, and it gave me something I needed, a reason to paint. Congratulations to Nicole and to John, and thank you for giving me the inspiration I so desperately needed. (It will FINALLY make its way to you. Promised weeks ago, but I found myself hearing the call of “not good enough” yet again. Having to remind myself that it’s not meant to be a Xerox copy, but a piece of art. I’m sending it today in order to shut off the voice in my head before I ruin it!)

In full disclosure I need the art police here to demand that I put down the brush. I’ve retouched this painting six times since I started photographing it…sick, just sick…

So, a return to art, and a return to writing. The first hurdle is behind me. I know it won’t be the only one, but it feels good to begin again. My life moving on.

for nicky

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OK, I admit it. I took the photo of the painting no less than a dozen times. Why? Because I started finding fault with it and “fixing” it. Memo to the voice in my head…SHUT UP! Oh no, I hearing it again….I need to fill in John’s beard a little, fix the baby’s hairline, darken the ear on one side, ….help!

Precarious Unpacking

Are you familiar with Jenga? You know the game where there are a stack of pieces that you pull out one at a time until someone pulls the wrong piece and everything goes tumbling down? Welcome to my world. Nearly three months in and still unpacking. We left a house that was a little more than three thousand square feet, and moved into one just shy of fourteen hundred. To say space is an issue is an understatement. My studio is jammed with books and supplies, and there are still unopened boxes in the garage. The kitchen isn’t even half the size, actually about a quarter of the size of my old one. The weight of “stuff” is upon me. I mentioned Jenga because that is how things are happening around here. I open a box and put a precarious stack of things together, and hope nothing will fall. It’s not that I am being careless; it’s that I actually don’t have anywhere to put anything. As I told Dan this morning, “You know I’m in trouble when I’m happy that I broke something. It means that I don’t have to find a place for it!” We are collectors. (Actually it’s more me than Dan, but this is California, you know 50/50? He owns half, I own half, so he gets half the blame) Thirty years of flea markets and antique stores, and our shared passion for books. He is equally guilty on this one. We love to read, for Dan world events, current events, and history; I have an addiction to design, art, and cookbooks. We built shelves, lots of shelves, but there just don’t seem to be enough. There are bookcases in the studio, one in the guest room, and soon to be one in the very small master bedroom. Then there is art. This one would be obvious because I’m an artist and photographer, as is my daughter, and my son (if he could ever admit it) has a good photographer’s eye. My mother-in-law is an artist, as is my brother-in-law, we love Maxfield Parrish, and vintage prints, photography, and have cool funky fleas market pieces….I think I’m starting to sweat, like I said, overwhelmed, buried alive, frustrated, and unfortunately, extremely sentimental. It makes getting rid of things a nightmare. I look at a box with dread, but then I open it and the “Oh I remember this.”, or the “But the kids made this…gave me this… might want this…”, and then there is, “It might be worth something, we can’t just get rid of it.” Breaking stuff (on accident I swear) takes the decision making out of it for me. I feel an instant pang of regret, followed by an equally joyous moment of elation because I have to throw it out. I’m sure to some of you it would be easy. No room for that old doll? Off with its head. Another antique plate? How many plates can one eat off? Gone! But not me, I remember every piece, every moment. I know that the vintage wooden pillars with the delicious aqua patina were a steal for $35 at the Wheeling, Illinois Flea Market. The guy had no change and I did, so he let them go. The white shabby half column? From a road trip through Ohio with Dan and the kids, the same trip that brought me the reproduction funky, slightly creepy, painted crow with the glass eyes that seem to stare right through you. The four green Depression glass plates that Jessica bought for me, one of the first gifts she bought me with her own money. The little ceramic chef that was a gift from my mother-in-law that reminds me so much of Brian. I obviously have issues. For me vintage pieces come with a former life, a connection to another soul, something that someone cared enough to hang on to, maybe it comes from the desire to have a larger family. Most of our family is in Ireland. No big family reunions, no crazy aunt that everyone giggles about behind her back, no old family home with an attic filled with treasures. For most of my life it was just my parents and my three sisters. When the four of us were married and had eight children between us, I was thrilled. When the kids were small holidays were great. Now I am here in California, the kids have all grown, my daughter lives in New York, my niece currently resides in Nebraska, another nephew exploring the idea of Texas, my sister soon to move to Nevada, and our parents are gone. We’ve gone from a party of eighteen to three, and that is only until Brian decides where he will end up, and then there are two. There is no one in the world I would want to be in a duo with more than Dan, but it does get lonely in our little world…did I get sidetracked? Yes, of course I did. Back to the stuff! The boxes are dwindling. I am finally making some headway, and making some hard choices along the way. We have decided to set aside some things we really love, even if that means they live in a box in the garage for now.

In an earlier post I mentioned the possibility of starting a blog about our new home and the renovations we would undertake. The truth is that the house just isn’t large enough to do that. We have made some changes, significant ones, but I think that I could cover it in about two posts. Some changes will have to wait for monetary reasons, some because quite frankly we are tired, and some because we have decided that this time, in this house, we will take our time and get what we really want. So for now I’m off to the land of bubble wrap and moving boxes, and hope that in today’s game of Jenga I come out the winner.

One final note, our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary was June 24th. Dan’s job made it impossible to go out for dinner. As anyone who reads my ramblings might know, the one thing we miss the most about our old house is our garden.The new garden is a hideous mess of dead weeds and hard cracked ground, but there is just a small bit of a patio. I decided with a little help from Brian to create a little piece of our favorite city, Paris, in our own back yard. A quick trip to the home improvement store for some lattice panels and metal brackets, some rummaging through our stuff, and a bistro was born. We had dinner in the garden, and enjoyed it so much we plan to expand on it. (That will be of course once the Jenga game is completed) A few photos of the “bistro”.

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Starting Over

I spent this morning thinking about my Dad. I still miss our phone calls, but I am grateful that there are no unsaid words between us. I think in many ways his passing was easier than our Mother’s. We had no idea just how bad her health was. She chose to keep that to herself. I suppose like so many mothers, myself included, she put herself last. Unexpected complications from unexpected surgery, and she was gone inside three weeks. It was like a blow to the stomach where you find yourself winded and unable to catch your breath. Dad had his first open heart surgery in 1986, and from that day forward he tried to prepare us all for the inevitable. He planned and paid for his own funeral, including asking the undertaker if he could get in the casket and try it on for size. (He had quite a sense of humor, along the lines of a thirteen year old boy) His health had been failing in the last few years. A bout of pneumonia on New Year’s Eve was the final trigger. His health both mentally and physically rapidly declined. Although there were moments where we thought we saw glimmers of hope, the reality was that he was tired, he was lonely, and he was ready to go. My sister Colleen put it best. She said, ” The selfish part of me wants him to still be here, but the other part of me is glad he isn’t in pain anymore.” I feel exactly the same. The strange thing these days is not having parents. It does feel a little like we are orphans. Not in an Oliver Twist kind of way, but more that no matter how old you are, you still look to your parents for comfort and advice. I think we all want our parents to be proud of us. It’s almost as if we never outgrow “show and tell” from kindergarten. We share new jobs, new relationships, our homes and accomplishments, all in hopes of garnering their approval, a smile, or a pat on the back. As I struggle to unpack and move in to my new home, (I know, still at it. That’s a post for another day!) it saddens me to think Dad will never step foot inside these walls. I even miss the idea of him checking my paint job, and believe me he did. I know that both of my parents will always be with me, I need only to see a soccer ball, a yellow rose, to look at my face, or on those of my children, and I see them both. I also know that they will live on in my heart, although right now that hurts. The anniversary of my Mom’s death is in three weeks. It’s been eight years, and for Dad it is not quite two months. Even as I write this a tear falls down my face. I think that my heart broke when my Mother died; a break that I don’t think will ever really heal. Now with Dad’s passing I think the crack has grown a little larger. Time helps, I know that, but I’m in no hurry for time to pass. I will instead continue to try to make them proud.

I titled this post “Starting Over”, and that’s what I need to do. Between the move, and my Dad’s illness, and funeral, I have been feeling a little lost and overwhelmed. I haven’t touched a paint brush in months, (other than the kind used to paint a house.) I have done a little sketching, but I have really nothing to show for it, so it’s time to begin again. I made mention of restarting another 365 day project, and I still like the idea of it, but unpacking takes precedence. My studio is about 80% completed, as for the rest of the house…Yikes! At best I believe I’m looking at another week or two before I can begin. Time to regain control a little, and do what I was meant to do…ART!  There’s a lot of emotion bubbling near the surface these days. I hope I can channel it into some really good work.

I mentioned Dad’s sense of humor. It often showed itself in merciless teasing of Mom. That’s how I want to remember them, the laughter, the good times, and the love they have for each other. I believe it still exists, I believe God has brought them back to each other, the way they are meant to be.Christmas

Bernie's wedding

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Unanswerable Loss

DoubleTwo months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve sat before this computer and shared my thoughts, my life. One month. That’s how long it has been since I lost my Dad. I’ve been busy. We closed on our home the 7th of April, and made two trips to Chicago to see my Dad. Well, one to see him, and one to bury him. The truth is that I’ve been avoiding myself, avoiding this blog, because I wasn’t ready. Grief is a funny thing. It’s never the same for two people. I’ve written a lot about why people are who they are, and how experiences shape them. Grief has a way of pointing out the differences. Some take action and busy themselves to the tasks at hand, while others let grief surround them like a blanket held tight, waiting for comfort, but finding none. There are those who begin the desperate search to find answers, to question God, to layer the guilty “should haves”, “would haves”, and tear themselves apart. For me there is no anger. In our Dad’s final days we were all praying that he be released from his pain, and that he might be able to rejoin our Mother. Her loss was one he had never recovered from. Once those prayers were answered we were all left feeling the pain and emptiness that only death can deliver. For me there was additional sadness. Despite making two trips to Chicago in the weeks prior to his death, I had planned to go and be there for his final days. I had a flight scheduled for a Monday, he died the Friday before. The harsh reality of not living near family is that there are times when the distance causes one to feel like they aren’t quite part of things. Birthdays, graduations, the gradual growth of a child, are all things you witness from afar, and when someone you love falls ill it brings tremendous feelings of helplessness. With my Dad it was complicated further by our move. I wasn’t free to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. When our Mother died (forgive me if I have written of this before), Dad told me he couldn’t go to sleep. For more than fifty years the love of his life had been at his side, and now the bed was empty, there was no one to say goodnight to. My heart broke for him. He had always said that loneliness was the worst disease. I began to call him every night. I spoke about it at his funeral. In almost eight years I missed only a handful of nights, and when I knew in advance that I wouldn’t be able to make that call I asked someone else, usually my daughter, to make the call for me. Eventually those calls increased to every morning, and several throughout the day. I took every call he made. I wanted him to feel secure in knowing that someone would always be there. I would check the television schedule every day looking for his other great love, soccer. I would call with movies, history programs, anything to fill his empty days. There were times when we had great conversation. We would talk politics, religion, family history, and in particular movies. There were also difficult conversations. There were times when I sat here strangling the phone in frustration. Calls when he was angry at his loss, at his loneliness, and his bewilderment at God for taking “his Mary” first, and leaving him lost. Now I am the one feeling a little lost. For nearly eight years the first thing I did every morning was pick up the phone, and again every night, a call so he could hear the voice of someone he loved before he went to sleep. He isn’t lonely anymore, but I am. There is an emptiness in both the beginning and end of my day. I couldn’t call him in the final weeks before his death. I relied on my sisters to put the phone to his ear. On the morning that he died I told him I loved him and that it was time to let go. I told him it was time to go to Mommy and to his Big Mommy (his grandmother whom he adored). I had no way to know that would be our last call. He died about two hours later. Yesterday I called one of my sisters. I was the one feeling lost and lonely; I was the one who needed to hear the voice of someone I love. On the morning that my Dad passed away I was driving to the local mall. I’m sure everyone knows of the horrible drought here in Southern California, but that morning it was raining, raining hard. As I was driving my thoughts were on my Dad. I had only two hours before been telling him to let go. I thought to myself that the way it was raining reminded me of Ireland, and of course that reminded me of my Dad. I pulled into a parking space and said aloud, “These aren’t tears of sorrow; they are tears of joy, a good one is coming home.” I stepped out of my truck and my phone rang. It was my sister calling me to tell me that our father just died. Maybe in some way I knew. Maybe all of those phone calls gave us a connection that transcends this world. Dad if there was a direct line to Heaven I’d call you right now, but I know you are with Mom right where you need to be. I love you both, and I miss the sound of your voice.

It’s Final

I wrote the following a week ago. Too much to do to sit and post, and now the time is here. As of five o’clock yesterday the house officially belongs to another family. We closed on our new home today. It was a bittersweet moment to be sure. When I heard it was official all I could do was cry.
I look to where a clock once hung; I’m reminded that the time has come. The boxes are packed, the echo of hollow walls sounds with each and every step. The day I had hoped would never come is imminent. I look wistfully out my windows to my garden, my sanctuary, and know now it will belong to someone else. The process of moving is never easy. Memories reside within these walls around me, and now they will have to live inside my mind. It has been a long and difficult road filled with job loss, fear, anxiety, and wisps of hope. I recently said to Dan that it has been like have a bandage pulled excruciating slow from a wound. There is a difference in deciding that it is time to leave your home and having to leave your home. We could have hung on, but we are tired of struggle. I remind myself that things will be better once we are settled, but I think that this wound is so deep it may never close. We are lucky, I know that. There are those who didn’t make it, who not only lost the life they were living, but the four walls that contained that life. My heart bleeds for them. We made it. Through the grace of God, through the love and support of family and friends, we had a house to sell. For that I am grateful. I look for the positive in all of this, and there is much good in this move. I, the one so intimately acquainted with orthopedic surgeons, will be moving to a one story house. I will also be moving to a house half the size of this one. Half the house means half the cleaning. There is also the challenge of a new space. I passionately devoted myself to this home for almost twelve years and it shows. I have loved design since childhood, and now I begin again. That has been the saving grace through the last few weeks. I have begun looking at colors, and redesigning spaces in my mind. I am more than anxious to get to work. The next few weeks bring a new life, lots of work, and I’m sure some nostalgic sadness as well. I haven’t been writing much, too much work to be done, and too many tears. I’m ready to go. This place that I have loved so well is no longer my home, without my things around me it has become a house for someone else. They already love the garden, and have chosen not to paint over my mural, that makes me happy. I wish them well, and hope they have as many wonderful memories here as we did.

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Riley is all set to go.

Lost For Words

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. There is an old saying that silence speaks volumes. That and sometimes there are no words to adequately express the pain in your heart. I had written of my desire to have my elderly father come to live with me. To give a little back to someone who gave me so very much. That won’t happen now. My dad’s condition has worsened. My greatest fear at this point is not seeing him before I lose him. I am living in limbo these days. Our home is still on the market, we have yet to find a new one, I need to be here to sell one home and to find another. That means I can’t go home yet. Stress has become a daily habit.

…I began that draft weeks ago. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would ever finish it, or even write on this blog again, but here I am. Another of the little voices that reside inside my head has told me that the time has come. Big changes in the last few weeks. To begin with I finally made it to Chicago to see my dad. He didn’t look as bad as I expected, but my sisters tell me that what I came home to was a vast improvement from the weeks prior. It was hard enough to leave him again, I am grateful that he was on the mend when I saw him. He is slowly recovering, but I think sadly will never really be the same again. Though there were glimpses of him as he danced about in his wheelchair when he saw the Irish cookies I brought with me. There were also still trances of his boyish humor as he poked fun at those around him, and also his soft heart as he was more worried about hurting the nurses than himself as they tried to pick him up and move him. There were dark moments as well. Moments where he seemed to forget that our mother was gone and we cried again together. I cannot express my gratitude enough to my sisters for being there with him, for doing an outstanding job of watching over him, and for continuing to do so. I talked to him yesterday. He knew who I was, and he sounded even better than last week when I was there. I am happy for every good moment.

On the other home front here in Temecula there are also changes afoot. Finally having our friend who is a realtor represent us, we sold our home. We have found our new home. It isn’t miles away as we had planned, but here in this little city we have grown to love. In the end we couldn’t find an affordable safe neighborhood in Los Angeles. I’m sure there must be some, we just didn’t know how to find them. I’ve looked at more than one hundred houses since October. I was exhausted, depressed and feeling hopeless. Dan and I talked and realized that neither of us has ever lived anywhere as long as we’ve lived in this house, and that for us Temecula is home. We began to search here but again we left feeling like we would never find “our house”. We had discussed all along getting something that needed a little fixing, but nothing we looked at was speaking to us. Our friend suggested an older neighborhood, and there it was. From the moment we walked in the door we knew it was ours. We left the house and told her to stop looking. Leaving this home will still be bittersweet, but it is becoming easier by the day as we begin to plan for our life in our new home. We are excited at making that house into something special just as we did here. It is half the size, and there isn’t a single stair in the place, my knees are beyond happy.

Meanwhile my pledge to begin art again will have to wait. I am packing, and planning, and designing in my head! We have also decided that as we move on we will document our progress. More than likely in a sister blog to this. I am a great believer in fate. It has been a long time since we’ve had good news to share. Hopefully this will be the beginning of better things to come.