Reset

resetOn June 8 I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, which had been damaged by an infection. It all happened quite suddenly. We only discovered the damage on April 4, when I had what we thought was a stroke. It turned out to be a severe TIA. It was serendipitous in that it triggered a battery of tests that uncovered the weakness in my heart. It needed fixing quickly. The doctors at Penn expedited my case. I had my heart catheterization on May 9 to make sure I didn’t need any bypasses or stents.

At 6am on June 8, Bethann & I went to the Hospital at U. Penn. and checked me in to pre-op. Later that day, I was so happy to wake up alive! Bethann told me that my first words were: “Where is my keyboard? I want my keyboard.” I wanted to write. Once I got my keyboard, I couldn’t focus to write anyway. I haven’t been able to focus to write or to paint since the surgery. My days have been full of visiting nurse visits, doctor visits, walks, naps. I have researched subjects to paint. I did one sketch that was less than satisfactory. I finally decided to start over where I started in April; with a self-portrait. That is why I call this painting “Reset”. I’m using it to reset my creativity to get back on track writing, painting, editing, etc.

This painting is based on a photo I took using my Mac just before my surgery. My granddaughter Isabella saw my hair blowing around in my face when we were riding in the back of their car. She said I looked like a rock star with my hair in my eyes. I had already started painting this when she said this, but had not painted the face yet. In the photograph, the computer screen is reflected in my sunglasses. I decided to paint an opening door, instead.

Godfather, 4438 Shoreline Drive

godfatherI am the youngest of four siblings, yet my memories have always gone back further than my sisters and brother. This is a painting of the house where I lived for my first six years (June 1955- June 1961). It still stands. The outside finishes and windows have been updated, but it is still the same tiny Dutch Colonial. It is almost totally obscured by trees on Google Earth.  When we lived there, those Google Earth shots would have been impossible! The place was literally crawling with children! (also skipping, jumping, climbing, hiding & seeking, chalk drawing, running,etc.) 1955 was the crest of the Baby Boom after all. Crystal Lake was across the street. That is where the Ericksons, Hostermans and DeLays lived.

Our house was at 4438 Shoreline Drive, Robbinsdale, 22, Minnesota. Postage stamps were 4 cents. Flags had 48 stars. Everybody liked Ike. Our phone number started with KEllogg 7. I knew all this when I was three. My earliest and most powerful memory was being held in the arms of my godfather, Gordon, when I was just two years old, in the dining room of that house. He was looking out the door to the screened-in porch. I remember the feel of his laugh, and that it was one of the few times I felt truly happy and safe in that house.

Not long after that party, Gordy committed suicide. It wasn’t clear that he intended to. There was no note. Gordy had the form of acrophobia that would cause him to have a strong urge to jump from open heights. I have it, too. It is actually an idea, seemingly hardwired in the brain, that the scariness of being on the precipice would be relieved, if one would only throw oneself on the wind and fly.  Gordy flew. His wings burned up like Icarus’ in the Sun.  I simply never saw Uncle Gordy again; never smelled that smell; never saw that smile; never felt that embrace; never felt that laugh again.

That’s me, in the red jumper, asleep in Gordy’s arms. My therapist asked me, yesterday, when I showed her this painting, “So safety must be a big concern for you. What do you do to make sure you are safe?”

I asked her if that was a trick question.

We had much tears. The fact of the matter is, I have had little consciousness of safety since we moved away from that house. First Gordy disappeared, then we moved away from the Ericksons.

When a man strung out on heroin pulled a gun on me, I was too numb to be afraid. My safety is not on my radar. It was beat out of me at an early age. I just calmly sized up the man, determined what his real motives were and helped him achieve them in a way that was best for everyone concerned. It involved me driving with a gun poked in my ribs for 17 miles, but he got into rehab not prison, and, as a side benefit, I got to live.

(If you want to purchase this painting, or others by me, visit www.shoutforjoy.net)