Thank you all for attending today. The support we’ve received has been immense and overwhelming. For those of you who have never met me until today, I’m Sarah, [...]’s daughter. But even though you may have never met me previously, I have no doubt that you’ve heard many things about me, as well as my brother [...], because Dad had a tendency to talk to anything with ears about his children.
A quote that has been repeating in my mind this week that has given me comfort is the following from Longfellow: “Dead he is not, but departed, for the artist never dies.”
For me, it is nearly impossible to separate my dad, the man, from my dad, the artist. Almost every memory and association I have of him involves art in some way.
Growing up, on evenings when he wasn’t nestled on the couch with us watching Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Muppet Show, more likely than not, he could be found in his studio on the third floor of our house. Many nights, I would follow him up there so that I could paint and draw too, alongside my daddy. I would climb the steep staircase, seeing light seeping out from the cracks around the studio door. About halfway up, I could hear oldies music playing from his stereo. On the landing outside of the door, I could smell the mixture of menthol cigarettes and oil paint. Pushing the door open and peeping my head in always produced a smile and an invitation to join him.
While in college, I took a creative writing class. One of our writing prompts involved writing a list poem about a childhood memory. I quickly jotted down the following poem about my father’s studio. I think it communicates my feelings and memories in a pithy way that would be difficult to recreate.
The slanted ceiling that threatened a bumped head.
The faded and torn psychedelic poster left over from his college days.
The baskets and tins full of crimped and crumpled paint tubes.
The canvases finished, half finished, turned to the wall.
The stained, cluttered drafting table, always too high.
The corner where I joined him in artistic discovery.
The cigarette smoke, oldies station, and heavy scent of oil paint floating, mingling through the room.
The closet with a child size door, opening to past failures and successes.
The paint brushes stained, bristles soaking, handles chipped.
The drawer full of his most treasured works: finger paintings and crayon sketches from his two children.
The piles of art books, engineering books, antique books.
The palate layered, rainbow swirls.
The framed masterpiece I pasted together in third grade.
The mutual pride and affection for father and daughter.
Being in Dad’s studio again with my brother this week has produced more laughter than tears as we shared our joint memories about the objects we rediscovered. Regardless of the fact that the room was a different one than the one from my childhood, it still smelled exactly the same and is undeniably my father’s space.
If you’ve spoken with my dad for any length of time, you quickly realize that he often used the same couple of quirky phrases and sayings. “It’s all happening at the zoo” was one that I thought for the longest time was just something he had made up. I discovered embarrassingly recently that it is, in fact, a Simon and Garfunkel song. “You’re a pain, but not a window” was directed at my brother and me a lot when we were young and blocked his view of the television while we were playing.
One of the top sayings etched into my memory, however, was one he used exclusively with me and was in the form of a question. He constantly asked me, “Do you know you’re my favorite daughter?” My typical response was a sigh and the comeback, “Dad, I’m your only daughter.” He was always quick to shoot right back, “Yeah, but you’re still my favorite.” As I got a little older, I matched wit for wit and responded instead with, “Well, good, because you’re my favorite dad.”
Now that my brother and sister-in-law have a son, [...], do you know what I find myself saying to him when I play with him and help put him down for naps? “[...], do you know you’re my favorite nephew?”
Thank you for being with us today and sharing your memories with us.
The turn out for the service was amazing. The room was packed. All of my closest friends came from near and far to pay their respects. I have some great people in my life, not least of which is my brother (who literally carried me when I was breaking down), and I am eternally grateful for each and every one of them.