Two 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.
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.
Riley is all set to go.
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.
There has been art this week. I am in the middle of something as I write this, but tonight isn’t a night for sharing art. It is a night about questions. I made a piece of art last week. It was a homemade postcard for my dad. It was a simple watercolor encouraging him to get well enough to come to California. Unfortunately that remains to be seen. If you have followed this blog over the last year and a half you probably surmised that my mother’s death wasn’t an easy one. That’s one of the reasons that I have questions about my dad’s condition now. For my sisters and I our mother’s death was a long three weeks of suffering, both ours, our dad’s, and obviously much more so hers. Now it is my dad who hasn’t been well for weeks. In his case it isn’t that he is even close to dying, but that we are losing him in another way. Again I won’t share details, his privacy, our pain. I can say that I am personally questioning why? Why again must we watch one of our parents suffer so much? I don’t have any answers. I only have bewilderment, pain, fear, and of course prayer.
There was another question in my life this week. Not my question, but one of an innocent eight year old who asked me what prejudice means, what racism means. Tough questions. There are of course definitions to be offered, but really no explanations. This is a child of mixed race. He is a beautiful child, a child who has unfortunately known incredible pain in his life far too soon. He is a child that some people might not like simply because of his beautiful warm brown skin. I explained the best I could, but in the end I offered him only this: We are all the same inside, and that I have no answers to why people are who they are. I wish I did. I wish I could offer him more. I wish that I had some magic that could make the world a better place. Maybe I do, maybe we all do, one child at a time.
So I dared 2015 to keep me down, and as my title states, be careful what you wish for. 2015 took my dare and ran with it.
I did start a few pieces of art, but nothing to post as of yet. Instead after the New Year’s pat on the back for creating something, I find myself struggling to create. New Year’s Eve my sister had to take our elderly father to the hospital. He has pneumonia, and worse yet has been diagnosed with some severe neurological problems. I won’t go into detail, I respect his privacy, but it is never the less a blow I hadn’t counted on. What is even more difficult is to be so very far away from him. I am not in the financial position to go. I have had some offers from my daughter, and one of my sisters to help, but I am choosing to hope for the best. For me that would mean my dad moving here as soon as he is able. I know it won’t always be easy, but it is the least I can do for him.
My dad worked hard his whole life, and he did it all to give us a better life in this country, his chosen home. I don’t know of anyone who loves Ireland as much as he, but he knew there was a better future somewhere else. He left Ireland for Canada, and Canada for Chicago. When he came to this country he talked his way into a job driving a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus. He had never driven one before, but he had a pregnant wife and two kids, and he needed the work. He always told a hilarious story about driving the bus down an alley in downtown Chicago. He was stopped by a police officer who took one look at my dad, who was clearly very young, heard the brogue, knew he was fresh “off the boat”, laughed and let him go. Later he learned a new trade; he became a painter and wallpaper hanger. He was one of the best. For a number of years he was “the painter in the zoo”, at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I have fond memories of days spent there. When Jessica was a baby, my sister and I would bring Jess and my nephew John to have lunch with Papa at the Children’s Zoo. Just a few years ago while in his seventies, he cut in a portion of a wall for me. His normally shaking hand as steady as a rock while he held that brush. He often worked two jobs to meet the private Catholic school tuition for my sisters and myself. My mother worked as a waitress from four in the afternoon sometimes until two a.m. to help fill the gaps. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. Below is a photo of the First National Bank of Chicago, sixty stories high. My dad painted the outside of it, once dangling from its side from a safety harness when scaffolding broke. He was fearless, strong, and would go to the ends of the earth to take care of us. Now he is old, frail, and lost without my mother. As a friend said, “Sampson is lost without his Delilah.” How true.
So 2015, I offer my deepest apologies. Can we start again? I just want my dad to recover, and to hopefully have him spend some time here with me in sunny Southern California. I have lots of plans to keep him busy, including a few little painting jobs that will hopefully bring back some good memories. I love him dearly, and miss him terribly. For now all I can do is wait and hope, and when the time is right to head to Chicago and bring him back with me.
One more photo from happier times. Dad outside the Lincoln Park Conservatory with Jessica as a baby.
Get well soon Dad, I love you.
Happy New Year one and all. Another new year, another new beginning. Another chance to hope for better things ahead. We started out 2014 with Dan still unemployed. We started out worried, yet hopeful, that somehow, someway, better things lay ahead. Not everything came out as well as we hoped. A job that has definitely had its ups and downs, but employment none the less. We started 2014 with no idea of changes coming our way, including our daughter and son-in-law moving to the other side of the country, and our son moving out. To say that 2014 left me adrift is barely hitting the nail on the head. With Jessica and John so far away, Brian gone from home, and from enjoying Dan’s company every day for sixteen months to barely seeing him at all (thanks to a one hundred and ninety-four mile round trip daily commute), I’ve been feeling lost. I miss the kids. I miss Dan, but more so appreciate every day what he does for us. I had hoped by now to be moved somewhere closer, and to be gainfully employed myself, but as we all know life can be the ultimate magic act, taking hopes and dreams and making them disappear right in front of our eyes. I am no longer sure of my place in the world. One thing I have learned in this life of mine is that only I am responsible for my happiness. I think I forgot that for a while. December kept me busy in fairyland, but while my hands were working, my mind was thinking. I don’t want a job. No, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work, but rather that I don’t want to work for someone else. I have all the employment that I need in my hands. I need to begin filling my time, as well as my bank account, with what I do best. The amount of creative things that I can do is quite impressive (if I do say so myself!) So 2015 I dare you to keep me down. Life, I’m old enough to know the secret to a lot of magic acts, I’ve looked behind the curtain. No disappearing acts this year.
Just before I sat down to write I began my first project for the year. A few months ago I stated that I wanted to start a new 365 project, then my engine stalled (I think it was all the glitter), fairies were occupying my every waking moment. New year, and the holiday rush behind me, there are NO more excuses. Commence the creating. Whether I make it back later tonight with something to show remains to be seen, but I will be working, I will no longer be drifting, I will be anchoring myself to my life’s salvation, art. Here’s to a good year ripe with hope and possibility, and making my life better for myself. If things go as planned you might all just be hearing from me a little more often, and in the process have some beautiful work to look at.
Just in case…one of my photographs from here in the hills of Temecula.
Merry Christmas to all!
Now that the frantic shopping has ceased (at least for a day), I thought it was time to reflect on what this holiday truly means. I have a very simple story to tell that will say it all…
As you may or may not know, this blog began as a way to force me to focus on my art for a year. I had spent a lifetime putting the needs of everyone in my life ahead of my creative dreams. It worked for a while, but then life thumbed it’s nose at me and the blog became more about my life’s journey. I have however in the process produced a lot of art, and some that I am quite proud of. I hope to return to its original purpose soon. For today I am posting art, it just isn’t mine.
I have never posted the work of another artist on my blog, until today. Last week my dear friend Theresa asked me to pick her daughter up from school. Emily is six. We had a great time together, we made matching poinsettia bracelets out of felt for both Emily and her mom, and with me handling the hot glue gun, and Emily choosing the silk flowers, we created an angel for her bedroom Christmas tree. We weren’t quite finished when Theresa came to get her. As we continued to work on Emily’s angel Theresa and I talked about the holiday. I mentioned that I wasn’t quite in the spirit, missing Jessica, Dan’s long commute keeping his days away from me quite long, and that because we had packed to move I couldn’t find half of my Christmas decorations. Among them my nativity set. Emily left the room and came back bearing a shoebox she had come out of school with. “You can have this.” I opened the shoe box to find a nativity scene she had created in school. I said, “Oh Honey thank you, but I’m sure your Mommy wants this.” Theresa said, “No, she wants you to have it.” I said that I would put it out every year. Emily cleverly pointed out that it was only paper and might not last. I said not to worry. Amongst the many, many art supplies that I own is a small machine to do lamination. This morning I laminated my nativity scene. I will keep it forever and display it with a warm spot in my heart. That lovely gesture from Emily is what Christmas is all about. No UPC code, no brand-name tag, no fancy wrap. A simple white shoe box filled with love from the heart of a six-year-old. You can’t get a better present than that. I bring you my first guest artist, Emily Navis. Have a Happy Holiday.
Back from Fairyland. No time to write in the last two weeks, the weeks and weeks of fairy making have left me with a sore shoulder from crouching over, and a house full of sparkle, but I’m not complaining. I made enough money to finance Christmas. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half, and gratitude for the little things is on the top of the list. We packed up this house months ago, packing much of the clutter in order to make the house ready to sell. I haven’t seen much of my “stuff” in months, and the truth is that I’m not missing it so much. (Although when we went to our rented storage space to get the Christmas decorations I was admiring many of my own belongings. I told Dan I’d like to shop my own storage locker.) We are learning to live with less, and since we will be downsizing that’s a good thing.
It’s been a rather strange holiday season so far. Our son moved out this year, and our daughter and son-in-law are happily ensconced in New York. I found myself struggling for a little Christmas spirit. Brian has agreed to spend Christmas Eve in the guest room, and I am so very grateful for that. This will be our first Christmas without Jessica. Sometimes it seems strange that she is so far away. With all the means of communication available we talk a lot, text almost daily, Facebook, Skype, I even sent her some old-fashioned snail mail. I still miss her terribly. There’s nothing like seeing the people you love face to face.
One of the faces I miss very much belongs to my Dad. He is eighty-two now. I haven’t seen him since September of 2013. Our finances being what they are, and his health making it hard for him to travel, we have been be unable to see each other. I talk to him every day, actually several times every day. He is my first call every morning as soon as I wake, and I am the last voice he hears every night before he goes to bed, and sometimes many, many calls in-between. He knows that I will answer when I see it is him. He is having a harder time remembering things, and suffers from much confusion. Lately he has been having episodes of paranoia. I think his days of living alone are through. Dan and I decided this weekend to see if we can move him here with us. The timing seems right, we will be looking for a new home once this one sells, so I will now be looking for a home that we can share with him. I’m not sure if we can work out all the details, but I plan on doing my best to make it happen. My mom has been gone for more than seven years, and my sisters have been incredible in caring for him. I have the luxury of having a talent that allows me to work from home. I hope to move him from Chicago to California. No more long cold winters, and for him the security of having one of his “girls” around all the time. It will be a huge change in our lives, but one that I feel a call to do. It is the least I can do.
Like I said, I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half. Coming close to losing everything makes you really understand what matters in your life. It’s the people that we love, not the things that we own. Just remember that when you open “stuff” this Christmas.
I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon, but as always I write when I am moved to by the universe, recent events, or sometimes because I need to blow off steam. This morning I write for a different reason. For many years when people asked what I did I would say, “I am an artist”, while the entire time in my heart and mind I felt like a fraud. Last year in one of the earlier posts of this blog I wrote about a woman I met who in a way challenged me on calling myself an artist. She asked if I had sold any work, the implication being that if I hadn’t, that somehow I couldn’t claim the title. I have also heard of others being called “professional artist”, again the implication being that unless one is earning a living by selling their work, they are somehow an amateur. I was angry about it for some time, that is until I came to understand that the proclamations of the judgmental crowd are merely words of jealousy cloaked in self-righteousness. Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Wood, O’Keeffe, names sound familiar? There was a time in each of their lives when they didn’t earn a living as artists, they still painted, they were still artists, they just weren’t selling any work yet. I guess if you read my blog you know by now that judgement is a sore issue with me. I honestly didn’t intend to head down the rabbit hole of defending myself to these people, but I feel my temper rising when I think about being judged as an artist by people who can’t or don’t create…..breathe…breathe…
OK, so now the real reason for my writing this morning. Last night I mentioned my work on etsy. Again, there are not as of yet many offerings in the way of prints of my work. It is at the moment more crafty kind of stuff. One of the things I have listed is a box. It is called the “Key To My Heart” box. It’s a small box made of paper, not quite cardboard, though it is sturdy, and inside this box I made an accordion of paper sentiments about love. A few days ago a young man on the other side of the world reached out to me. He said that he couldn’t think of a better way to express his love for his girl than with my piece of art. We have exchanged a few messages back and forth. My offer on etsy is to create a personalized version for the recipient, including quotes, verses, song lyrics, etc., anything the purchaser wants included. Last night he told me that the reason he wants this box is to use it as a means to propose on New Year’s Eve. There are no words to describe what this means to me as an artist. That someone is so touched by what I have created means everything to me. I have had to deal with more than a few detractors in my life. People who are not supportive of what I do, and have no respect for my talent. On the other side of the world there is a young man who is anxious, excited, and thrilled in anticipation of receiving my work in the mail so that he can give it to his love. The last page will be his proposal. I am hoping she is as moved by it as I am in creating it for her. When you can create something through words, through music, through painting, photography, or even craft that causes someone else to feel, you are successful, you are an artist. I need no more validation than that. I may not be Picasso or O’Keeffe, but I am no less an artist than they are.
I’m out of touch with the real world these days. I’ve been lost in the land of fairies. Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when glitter like an infectious disease clings to those who dare enter my home. We are still struggling along here. No bites on the house, and we are considering a new plan of action. Meanwhile I have decided to use my God-given talents to pay for Christmas. If you have followed along my journey you know this started out as an art blog. Truth be told, it started out as a way to publicly blackmail myself into working. It worked for a year, but then life snuck in and pulled the rug from under me. I tried again a few weeks ago to blackmail myself again, but I truthfully haven’t had the time to work on what I consider my serious art. Instead I am focusing on what brings in the cash, and that would be fairies. So I am here again, just like last year, to ask anyone who reads my blog to take a look at my etsy site. I have a few pieces of art up there, and intend to have more after the beginning of the year, but for now I’m asking you to take a look at my ornaments. Lots of new ones this year. I’ll post a few photos here. So if you are looking for an inexpensive handmade gift check me out.
My new International Fairies, bearing a “Merry Christmas” message in their native language.
I also have a vintage site on etsy. Again, very, very inexpensive. I need to downsize, and I am listing new treasures weekly.
Thanks to all who take the time to read my writing. When the glitter clears I’ll be back to my opinionated self.