“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

6.16.2008

The Cathedral of My Father's Death






This is my father. 

He taught me that reading was time spent well, that if the score in a baseball game was low it was a better game, that football was fun.  He was never in a hurry, and in fact would make you crazy with the time he spent conversing with clerks & waitresses.  He noticed when his favorite mom & pop hamburger stand changed their mustard brand & had a "discussion" with the owner about the heresy of switching from French's.  He recommended movies to me that he thought I would like - Mad Max, The Big Country.  When I didn't know the meaning of a word, he sent me to the dictionary to look it up - sometimes I wouldn't even ask him because I knew he'd make me go drag out that huge book instead of just telling me.  A dog person, he came to love the many cats that also made their home with us.  He gave me Patsy Cline & Johnny Cash and that coat I had to have in the 8th grade because everyone  had one, plus the love of crossword puzzles, and the ability to argue a point to death.

He died on New Year's Eve, 1996, but had been in the hospital since before Christmas.  The hospital's chapel was overflowing with red poinsettias, and the light through the stained glass windows was tangerine & pomegranate - those colors I love but cannot live in.  It was a dark, quiet, usually empty place, and it felt like I was curled inside a jewelry box lined with red velvet. After he died, I thought if I could paint that chapel, I could move past the grief.  But I couldn't paint it - so many reasons why, and time moved on.  2 or 3, or maybe 4 years later, I decided to explore making books.  This was the first one I almost  completed.  It felt  finished, however - I'd spent a weekend holding my breath & just putting the thing together & it felt done.  I called it The Cathedral of My Father's Death, and put it away.  This morning I almost couldn't find it - I looked through drawers and boxes and my grandmother's trunk and piles of art supplies before finally locating it in a file marked "personal" in my back closet.

So here it is.  It's connected together by the black ribbons & the vellum is scratched & some of the glue is letting go, but it still feels complete to me.

13 comments:

  1. i think you were posting this as i was commenting on the baby buckling entry. this is a beautiful post debi. the visual expression of your feelings in color, pomegranate and tangerine, and lying curled in a red velvet jewelry box lets me imagine the depth of your loss. i appreciate your posting this and such a wonderful book it must be. this is an amazing piece of love made art. i'm glad you found it. i'm glad it feels complete.
    xo

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  2. Robin - This was much harder to post than I'd thought it would be. Whew! As soon as I finished this, I read your comments about the duck & dog post & they were SO NICE & I was feeling so emotional that I just teared up. Thank you so much for your wonderful, wonderful comments both there & here. I'm so glad you're back so I can read all about what YOU'VE been up to! Can't wait!

    Love, Debi

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  3. Oh Debi...what a deeply touching tribute to your father.
    I'm with Robin...the colors and the sense of being in a jewelery box is such a vivid visual picture entwined with so much emotion. The red of these pictures is so fitting...I'm so glad you posted them.
    You are an incredible writer and have such a beautiful creative spirit.

    And the dictionary part made me laugh! The same things went on in my house...I too, got to the point where I didn't ask anymore either. But, when I was told to look something up, I never forgot it.

    love to you
    xo

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  4. Jaime - you are so kind. Muchas gracias. And the dictionary thing - OMG! I KNOW! I never forgot a word either, but I would just get so ANNOYED with him! LOL! And it was such a HUGE dictionary!

    :)

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  5. Debi
    Thank you so much for your visit, and your kind words. Your comment made me smile!
    I am saddened by this, and yet the notion of this book, "the Cathedral of My Father's Death", is so poetic and beautiful and deeply touching. I am so glad you found it, so glad you MADE it. What a cathartic experience, the making of it. You are brave. Even though you tagged your post with "fear", it took such bravery to do this.
    My heart goes out to you. xoxo

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  6. Gillian - Many thanks back at YOU. Oddly, the posting of this little book was as cathartic as the making of it. Thank God for the the blogging world!

    Love, Debi

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  7. 'and it felt like I was curled inside a jewelry box lined with red velvet'

    Your imagination becomes a metaphor of your emotions, sometimes trapped, sometimes flying free.

    Everything you share here is so sacred, the gift of human suffering and human healing.

    Thank you.

    I think he knew you would create this in his memory, that you were paying attention to all those details of life as he pointed them out.

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  8. Mermaid - Wow. Thank you. I like that thought.

    Love, Debi

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  9. How sweet and sad at the same time.
    I love the Cathedral that you made in honorof you r dad. I know that my time with my dad is running low. I don't know how I will deal with it, but I know that he leaves me with a rich legacy like your dad did.

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  10. Paula & Bridgette - Thanks to both of you. I am feeling lighter & lighter since posting this. I feel that Mermaid may be right - he knew I was paying attention. I hope he's pleased with this little book.

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  11. debi--what a fantastic way to deal with your father's death, even if you created it with held breath and then stashed it away. the images are so powerful, it's really, really wonderful and no doubt a very fitting tribute. thank you for sharing it!!!

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  12. Julie - Thank you. Even it took a while, it felt good when I finally did it. It was a big step preceded by tons of baby steps.

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