Visit to Charles and Cemetery

January 14th 2023

I drove up to see Charles today.  We are just driving away from his studio and I am reflecting on what the painting looks like at this point and more importantly what it represents for me.

Charles is in an excellent mode. He and Catherine are off to Norway soon to be honored and the women in leadership painting is out of the studio and off on display at the armory off Cedar Ave in St. Paul. My father’s painting sits alone in a studio full of paintings, history, wine, and artistic décor. The energy in the studio is always this mix of past and present. It is one of the reasons I knew Charles was the right person to bring my idea to life. My father was that kind of man, he loved history and the past and he had a bit of a fight with the modern and the present and yet he didn’t want to stop evolving himself. While the painting may have sat and rested for a bit it is amazing how much has changed since I last saw it in person. The amount of color has increased immensely. I wish I had made a video of Charles explaining some of the transformations.  There is a little situation with the Velvet can, due to the weight of the can and the passing of time, it has been slowly falling over. It is at a new angle and has shifted the stripes a little.  Charles will have to work his magic. You don’t dare touch or disturb anything at this point in the setting. As I look at the collection there are about five things I would like to adjust, and I can’t. I kind of like that I can’t. It reminds me that you can’t fix everything and that there is more than one way for things to be perfect. This is perfect right now, for me.

The colors and the shading just keep drawing me in.  We stand and talk for over an hour and I am just mesmerized as I look at it. Charles explained about the layering he is doing right now to build up the proper shadowing and depth to areas behind the jacket and then he will be doing more around the helmet area. As he waves his brush around the painting I am caught by the symbolism of it all. I view my father as a complex and layered human and this painting is a good representation of the complexity.

It also reminds me of the complexity of being a solders child. Touched by a war I never fought and carried around by a man that could never forget it.

Charles and I talked about some of the places that I might be able to show the painting before I tuck it away safe and sound in my home. I am enjoying the ideas that Charles brings to the plate for me and all of his connections. He has such an incredible memory for detail.  While my dad may not have met him, I know that he would have enjoyed hanging out with him. In some ways I guess my dad is hanging out with him in spirit.

The project will continue on over the coming months.

It’s a chilly, but not too cold day in January as we bob down the interstate making our way back home. A bonus of my trips to visit the studio is the opportunity to stop by the cemetery and visit the place that holds his ashes. I am curious if they have left the Christmas wreaths on the headstones or if they take them away right after Christmas. As the sun is now setting and casting a lovely hue of pinkish red across the cloudy sky, we pull into the Minnesota Veterans Cemetery, Ripley and the wreaths are still by all of the headstones, with many inches of snow on them, in some places you can’t even see the wreaths. We pull alongside the curb and I step out into the snowbank and walk through the fifteen-inch deep snow to my dad’s headstone. I always pat the top of the headstone when I get there and smile. The reality of his absence is so clear when I am here. It is helpful to remind myself that he really is gone, not just going through one of his reclusive spells.  If he was still alive right now he wouldn’t have time to talk or visit with me because it’s tax time.  Taxes really hit his anxiety I have realized, and he just couldn’t focus outside of that for about four months. It is kind of funny know when I think about it.

I kick the snow to the side around his grave and pull out the wreath from where it is buried, shake it and brush off the snow.  I gently return it to it’s location decorating the front of his headstone. I step back, take a photo and smile and have just a moment in his presence. The heaviness of his absence in my life strikes me and I can feel the tears coming and for anyone who has cried in the cold you know that your eyes can start to freeze shut, so you don’t want to cry in the bitter cold of January.  I step out of the deep snow and back into the warmth of my car and we slowly pull away towards the glowing setting sun.