My dad is a painter; he's been a painter for decades, but when he moved up here in 2004, he got back into painting on commission, and does some work on the side. He does a lot of portrait work by photograph, and, although I'm biased, I think he has a gift.
He mentioned, many moons ago, that he wanted to do a family portrait for us. He bought the canvas months ago- last summer I think- but I had said to not worry, since I knew he had some other "paying" work in the queue. He had initially intended for this to be a Christmas gift, but, like I said, no worries... no rush.
He told me, a few weeks ago, that he had started working on our portrait, but that it was difficult for him. I knew going in, that it would be. When he mentioned wanting to do a family portrait, he told me that he wanted all 5 of the children included, but that he wanted them to be age appropriate to Bobby and Maya. Since the only photographs we have of the children are, of course, right after birth and weren't the greatest detail for an artist who wants to study cheekbones, etc, I knew he was going to have a rough time.
Add to this, that my dad hasn't come to terms with the fact that Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander have died... Every now and again, he'll ask to see their box. He knows of them, of course, but he couldnt bring himself to say their names. It hurt too much. That hurt me, but I understood. We all process grief differently. I've never buried a grandchild- let alone 3- so I dont know what he's gone through. And God willing, I never will.
Last week, he brought a large canvas, covered by a blanket into my kitchen, and unveiled his work.
(keep in mind, this is from my cell phone and does NOT do this painting justice)
pendant Barb made me as a broach... and, using artistic discrepancy, made 4 hearts inside... The four hearts we never heard and were unable to hold outside the womb.
I'll get a better, more detailed (and non cell phone) picture, but this gives you the idea.
I choked when I saw it. I was finishing my lunch and didnt expect to be overwhelmed the way I was. But, what got me more was, as we cried together, the story my father told me of how he painted the children we'll never see age.
He had gotten pictures of Peter, Robert, and I as children, which he studied alongside images of Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander that he had blown up into huge dimensions. He began the painting with Bobby, because he said that he could see Bobby with his eyes closed. And then, one by one, Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander came to him. He described it as a spiritual experience. They would direct his hand, he said. When he made a mistake, they would tell him "that's not right" and he would repaint. And then, when their image was complete, he said that he heard them tell him "That's me, PawPaw... You've painted me." Even writing it now, I'm tearing up and have chills.
What he has given to us is a precious gift that words cannot express; but the gift that his grandchildren gave to him is one that there simple are not words for. Finally, 3 years and 2 years, respectively, later, he was able to have a relationship with his grandchildren who have died. I am so thankful for that.
And I am so touched by his expression of love for all of us.