Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Pops!

"Dada's dad." One of the greatest men I've ever known. I don't remember when I painted this
but I'm pretty sure it was sometime after my dad passed
in 1980. My mother didn't like this
of him in oils because, "He never dressed like that!" she would say scoldingly. But
I chose the coveralls of a post turn-of-the -nineteenth-century farm boy which he had been.
It was how I imagined my father dressed long, long before I ever knew him. In time, my Mom
came to admire this image of Dad. That was just a couple of years before she joined him.


"In zoos, when one of the gorillas dies, if the others don't see the body being carried away there be will raucous unease and unsettling screams from his surviving companions indefinitely," Mrs. Dada related from an NPR story she was listening to out on the patio while replanting a pot of basil.

I found that interesting, being as how I was inside the house recalling my father, his life, my life with him, and ultimately his passing.

Dad made it to 85 and I'm thankful it was only the last couple of months of his life he had to spend in the care of others as the victim of Alzheimer's. I didn't get to see him those last months and I was glad. Better to remember him before all that.

And then there was the funeral.

I flew to Oregon for his last rites. Unlike the zoo apes, I was pretty much of the same mind there, i.e., I didn't want or need to see my father in a casket beneath the cover of the undertaker's makeup before they carried him out. Hence, I declined to go up and view the body as others felt compelled to do.

But it was during the funeral service with the open casket center stage in the chapel, I suddenly became aware of what I was seeing while Dad was lying there.
Drifting away from the final words of the priest's eulogy, there was no way to avoid it, for it had captured my total attention.

Focusing on what I was seeing, I realized what I was staring at, just above the casket's edge, was the tip of my father's nose! As subtlly as I could, I slid a little lower in my pew.

Perhaps it was the inadvertent glimpse of his nose and the realization of what I had just seen that saved me from months of
raucous unease and the unsettling screams that would surely have followed the loss of a wonderful dad, still dearly missed after all these years.

Happy Father's Day, Pops!


Fran said...

Wow. I have never been a fan of the viewing of the deceased. For some people, that brings closure, and I cringe that every open casket funeral I have attended, someone or sometimes many people feel compelled to say how *good they look*.

I'm silently thinking.... this person had better days.

I am a total *outside the box* thinker when it comes to final resting places.

Anyway.... may he rest in peace.

a ball of Light said...

What a great image of your father! He had himself one talented offspring. i can see how it would grow on your mom - there is a warmth that permeates (and i don't think it's from the backlit screen) and suffuses the canvas, quite differently than if you'd clothed him in a suit.

D.K. Raed said...

well I love the painting! kind of american gothic meets norman rockwell.

had a similar experience w/my grandpa's death when I was 12 ... in his case I could see his gut protruding over the casket edge (he was a plus-size man) ... it gave me such a creepy feeling, I refused to go "visit" his body when the rest of the family trooped up ... and I've scrupulously avoided dead body viewings ever since.

But I definitely believe in "showing the body" of your dead pets to the surviving pets. How else are they to know what happened? Fortunately we humans can imagine all too well.

Dada said...

Fran: Isn't it some archetypal behavior of one of those closest to the corpse inevitably undertakes the requisite duty to verify (particularly in closed casket services) that the body in the box IS in fact the dead person s/he is supposed to be?

I've been to a couple of funerals or wakes when this has taken place. I'm sure far more others too, when I wasn't present.

Here's hoping you keep 'thinking outside the box' for a long, long time. Once in the box, I'm not sure what happens, but I am convinced it's one of two things: a.) something, or, b.) absolutely nothing.

abol: Oh, wow -- thanks for the kind words. Yep, I just couldn't have done this with a suit.

I'm really hoping to get back to painting, hopefully, soon. I do miss it. When a painting is going well, it becomes a transcendental experience. Everything melds into a single moment of timelessness.

D.K. Of our five dogs (4 now deceased) only one died at home -- Mr. Cooper. We were with him for the very rapid unfolding of his shutdown. As we sat on the patio, Pony and Annie watched from inside. When it was finally over, a tearful and emotionally shaken mom and dad let the girls out on the patio to see Mr. Cooper.

We were surprised at how very unmoved they both seemingly were. But I do believe it was good for them to be able to "view the body".