She took the paintings.
When the family moved – he sees them as “the” family now not “his” family – she asked him, Dad, what am I going to do with these? You’re not selling them. Someone comes by maybe once a week and you look them up and down and give them a price that they don’t like for something you painted thirty years ago, and they ask if you’re willing to bring it down, and you show them the door.
You don’t understand, he had said tiredly. They’re my children. I want to make sure they go to good homes.
No. I’m your child, she’d snapped back. And you’ve got these paintings stacked all around your bedroom and your studio in the annex of my house, and I’m not bringing any to Florida when we move, and you can’t bring them all with you to the home.
He sighs, because she forgets. She forgets that those paintings were what bought her pretty new dresses when she was a child, paid for their family vacations to the seaside in the summer, her college education.
He forgets things too, but he’s got a good excuse. He’s a proud octogenarian. One of the things he always forgets is exactly how many years he’s been on this earth, and claiming octogenarian status avoids making the distinction of exactly how deep into his eighties he happened to be. But as it is, he thinks he’s been bragging about that for a while now, and another decade might have passed. For all he knows. It’s so hard to keep track now.
Anyway, his daughter took the paintings away from him. But she covered up her theft by allowing him to decide what destination they would go to, a final gesture of humanity towards her aged father. So he scheduled appointments with old art students and older friends. Conducted one-sided conversations in his tiny studio in the annex to his daughter’s house as his visitors nodded distractedly, waiting patiently as he talked, a small price to pay for whatever bundle of paintings in the corner he had waiting for them.
In his prime years ago, a painting sold anywhere from $500 to $1,500. He’d deftly create two or three in a week and sell them at about the same rate. He taught painting lessons, too. He did well for himself, for his family, when he came back from the war. He raised a daughter and two sons and they all had children, and now their children were having children, but again – they forget. They forget that they all come from him. They want to move to Florida now, and he’s to old for the heat.
He was in the war. Was a medic back when they couldn’t carry weapons and that meant in your specially stamped helmet, you were the prime target for the other side because not only were you unarmed, but if someone took you out it meant you couldn’t treat your wounded brothers in the field and they would die too.
And he came back from the war full of energy and life. He married his love and he had babies that grew into children, and then young people, then working adults, and now retirees, retreating to Florida without him to take care of. He's past his prime, can barely walk three feet alone. And his beloved wife is dead.
He misses his old studio. It was cramped and lined with bookshelves and framed photos and certificates and the leftover inches coated with his paintings. For years after his wife died he had lived there in those two rooms annexed to his daughter’s house, paintings stacking up when it got harder to find strangers with good homes for them. Other things piled up there too besides his art. Magazine clippings, letters (that decreased in both quality and quantity over the years), so many books. Trinkets from the places he visited.
The room in the home that his daughter left him at has white walls, and they only let him put up one of his paintings. None of the attendants want to drill any more holes in the walls than there already are. Because really, how long was he going to be there to enjoy them. And when he was gone there would just be a bunch of holes to gum up.
So he stares at the painting, the last one he got to keep. It’s certainly not his best piece. He had to give that one away because it was too big, and besides, he couldn’t play favorites with his paintings, they are each special in their own way and just because some ended up looking more spectacular than the others didn’t mean he would treat them any different.
This one is a seascape. He’s painted breathtaking seascapes, with frothy waves crashing on shiny dark rocks and glimmering sunrises breaking through thick clouds, but this one isn’t like that. It’s plain with a little beach and a clear blue sky, and he’s comfortable with it. He knows each wave, each brushstroke in the textured sky, gives names the two grey seagulls dawdling on the sand.
He stares at the painting. His arthritic hands can’t paint anymore. He’s past his prime. The family is in Florida. It’s all he can do.There are no related articles for this article