Toward the end of a drive by visit to my mother I slipped down to have a look around in the basement while she sat with my sisters finishing dinner. I needed a quick breather to take in something of the house alone. It was cool down there. The space is full of antique furniture and some of my father’s unsalable paintings on table tops and against the walls. It was a relief to poke around down there away from the noisy dinner table where they were all talking about family stuff. I am rarely around for long, so my sisters raced over when she called to inform them that I would be home for a few hours.
It has now been ten years since my father died. The summer they discovered the cancer I was in Switzerland with UG for three and a half months. It was the longest period I’d ever spent away from the world of my studio/loft. Now I have no home to speak of. I received this news over the pay phone on the street in Gstaad down the street from UG’s cave. I was instantly panicked that I’d be called back and relieved when they told me he would have the operation in September after I’d returned. By December of that year he was dead. I was away again, in Miami this time, working on the big fair of the year. Already weak, he collapsed in the front hall of my parents house on the way to a doctor’s appointment. “Would it be cheaper to die at home or in the hospital?” he asked my mother. Sensing his flair for the dramatic, she said “I don’t know, probably at home. Now come on, get up!” I can picture her trying to lift him up, fully dressed, (he was a vain dresser), when he died in her arms. His feet were pointed at the door apparently. “Probably the only practical thing he ever did in his life.” She joked later. She was not as sentimental as he was.
She very quickly took charge of her new life. She bought a new, much smaller house near by, then a new car. She downsized her organized life to downsize immediately from his extravagant tendencies. It took weeks, months, to sort through the lifetime of his obsessive collections of stuff, antiques, electric trains, ship models, hand painted toy soldiers, nautical stuff, books, maps, furniture, and his artworks, some worthless, some with minor value.
My mother sold the family house within a week of buying the new one. The thirty-some years we’d lived in the big house evaporated into boxes, bags and then a moving van. As the truck sat in the driveway under the huge beech tree they called “The Disney Tree” I sat in my parents empty bedroom as a breeze blew the curtains inward and a slant of sunlight illuminated a slice of floor and wall. An act had come to a close. The drama was over. The character who’d occupied the main role in the plot had exited and we were wrapping up the props to move on. “I want you to live your own life.” He said to my mother before dying. “I already am.” was her revealing reply.
Ten years later I sat in my mother’s basement during a 6 hour visit from my life on the road. A big coffee table monograph of Edward Hopper’s paintings I’d given my dad for Christmas one year sat in a book stand on an antique cabinet. I flipped through the pictures to ‘Sun in an Empty Room’. A faint pencil inscription in my father’s hand was scrawled next to the title. “ALL GONE!”
I cut the image from the book and rolled it up. No one looks at that book but me. I brought it to another nearly empty room, my sublet where I’ll stay until the end of the month before moving on again. Life is sure different now from what it was when all those things happened. No more home. That’s all gone now. No more UG. No more dad. Everything comes and goes. Its all on the way out with the tides and lately that seems more than acceptable. I’ll be here until the end of the month, at which point I will continue hopping from place to place. Nothing was ever permanent, it just seemed like it at the time.