The past week, I went back home to the Toledo, Ohio area for the first time in 14 months. It is never a cheap trip. I can't bring my dog with me, and it is difficult for me to find someone to watch him. I also just wasn't sure if I could handle that emotional journey. My mother is slipping deeper and deeper into her Alzheimer's. Dad's grave finally has a stone. They have redone the whole family plot. I knew that seeing his name and dates carved in stone would bring a finality that needed to be acknowledged but was hard to finally see.
I took along my "companion," for lack of a better descriptive word. He has a station wagon that would more easily fit my father's paintings than my small Corolla. I needed to bring back his paintings. My friend has graciously given up storage space in her shed for over a year. They shouldn't be sitting in a shed, anyway. And I needed to bring a part of him home to be with me. Dad hated to give up his paintings, as they were like his children. When he died, though, we divvied up a lot of them, so that we could all have a piece of Dad. I brought back 20 on this trip and still have dozens more to come. My sister also has tons of them with her.
When I saw this prompt in the group for last week, I could only think of the Toledo Art Museum. It is my happy place and was also one of Dad's.
This is a picture of the museum at night. I always smile when I see it. The architecture is amazing. The collection inside is phenomenal. Every style and time period is represented, with constantly changing exhibits. Many are static, though. We all have our favorites. I know where to find all of mine, and my father's.
On this particular night, my father and I decided to have a Daddy-Daughter date. We went up on a Friday night to walk the museum. He didn't go much after I moved away, because it was so difficult for him to maneuver. When we were there, he remembered that Friday nights were concert nights. Tickets were expensive, but he splurged on two tickets to the Brahms concert being performed that night in the Peristyle by the Toledo Symphony. We ate a meal in the museum cafe. I relaxed with a glass of wine. On our way in, I literally ran into my childhood pastor and his wife, who are pushing 90. We got to reconnect with them.
Sitting through that concert, my father had a peaceful look of contentment on his face. I was moved to tears, both from the beauty of the music and the happiness of spending this time with my father. He was stressed about Mom and exhausted. But for a few hours, he could relax. Somehow, deep within, I also knew at the time that it would probably be one of our last events together. His health had been rapidly deteriorating for quite some time.
After visiting my father's grave for the first time since he died, I took The Man with me to the art museum so that he could see it. It was like revisiting a part of me that I had forgotten. We didn't have much time to soak it all in, but I managed to see a lot of my old friends again. I could even feel my dad's spirit walking with us.
Over the next several days, in his honor, I am going to be sharing with you some of my father's own works of art. Please feel free to share them and to comment. I hope you enjoy them. Look for the tag "Dad's Paintings." Thanks for visiting.