Friday, April 12, 2013

My Uncle, an Artist

I found it in a three-ring binder.  A penciled sketch of two hands with a short cluster of words to the right.

The title was simple:  Hands.

I was only ten but taking in those words opened up a new world for me.  Jimmy had written a poem of the relationship between his father's aging hands and his own journey of becoming a man.  Every line held a decade, every word meant the moon, every syllable flowed like wine.

My uncle, an artist.  

For years, I would sneak downstairs to his bachelor pad of crumpled bedsheets and crates of old magazines to snoop for more binders of his words.  I wanted to drink them up.  His words sometimes scrawled up the side of the page, like a boy daydreaming in geometry class.  Each page held pictures: sketches of faces, profiles of beautiful women, caricatures of children, sometimes a cat napping in the sun.

My uncle, an artist.

My trespassing went on for many years and crossed boundaries.  Sometimes I'd even sneak into his closet to wear one of his sweaters as a dress.  His scarves weren't even safe.  I wanted to wear what he wore because...

My uncle, an artist. 

The day I graduated from high school, he took off work early, got lost in DC and wound up spending two hours circling the exact building I was graduating in, not realizing he was in the right spot all along.  I met him in the parking lot outside afterward.  He was crushed to have missed the whole thing.  I was thrilled he showed up at all.

My uncle, an artist.

When Jimmy brought his entire family to meet my first born, he told me Grayson has been here before.

My uncle, an artist.

When we chatted on the phone about Pentenville, dogs, and heaven, he said animals are the only ones who can cut through the b.s. of being human and imprint their souls to ours with pure and flawless love.

My uncle, an artist.

When I hear Brendan playing his guitar, learn of Haley's gift with words, and witness Leah's nurturing soul, I am in the presence of his legacy, his gifts.

Jimmy is an irreplaceable spirit, an undeniable force of generous emotion, and a person we all fell in love with a lifetime ago, 23 years ago or last week.

His voice we can't forget, his "voices" compel us to cry laughing or now...just cry, and the love he gave each of us is living inside all who had the great fortune of sharing space with him.

My uncle, the artist.

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