A Very Sad Day: edited

Second draft: I am cleaning out my Dad’s ceramics studio, where he spent the past 30 years of his life creating objects of wonder and beauty.  This is what people are supposed to do after a parent dies.  But my Dad is still alive. And here I am doing it now, with his permission, under his direction, as far as he is able to communicate it.

Three years ago he made a rack full of vases, teapots, plus two covered jars, which he intends as reliquaries for his and my mother’s ashes. 

Then he walked away, and has been back only briefly to try to make some work, only to be foiled by his brain, shot full of little strokes as a result of his diabetes. He knows what he wants to do, but cannot make his hands do it. It is called “apraxia,” and it sneaked upon him like a thief in the night. And aphasia ties his tongue. And dementia wrecks his brain.

He waged a valiant war with diabetes.  He exercised an hour a day, seven days a week, from six till seven every morning. He ate a prescribed diet, and almost never cheated.  He took his medicine.  And he made it into his 80’s before the disease really caught up with him.

He still has all his toes, and his eyes and kidneys work fine.  But his brain and his skeleton took the big hit, and neither one carries him where he wants to go anymore.

So here I am in the inner sanctum, throwing out his special formula glazes–he was a master of glaze chemistry– because they are dried out and no good to anybody anymore.  Glazes with names like “Golden Ambrosia,”  “Rosey Lavender”– they are blends of his own formulas with commercial stains.  But ones like EZA 40% Cu, those are his own formulas. And I’m throwing them out.  I feel like I’m throwing out his life, and my life too, because I spent my childhood in the pot shop, quietly working on some project of my own so as not to disturb my master, my teacher, my guru, my Dad.

Epilogue–I had to come back and edit this. The first draft was full of mistakes because my eyes were overflowing and I could not read what I was writing. And I have decided not to throw the glazes out. “Throw them out!” says Dad. But I will put them in boxes in a safe place, until I feel more settled about it.

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  1. *hugs*

    I know that feeling.

    When my Mom died, we had to dispose of her glass studio. She did amazing work in stained glass. She even had a diamond-blade glass bandsaw, with which she would cut tiny hands and hearts smaller than your pinky fingernail. All that specialty glass (and there was so much of it) is very expensive, but fortunately less perishable than glazes! I remember helping her pick out glass for projects, the feel of the different types of glass under my fingers, doing my part to put the copper tape around the pieces of glass, learning how to cut glass myself, watching her solder, and burning my fingers on the little shiny beads of extra solder that would drop off the iron.

    Fortunately, a good friend of Mom’s took the lot because she knew someone or someplace that would take it all and do something good with it. It all happened in this awful haze of grief and hypomania. I hardly remember any of it now. I can’t imagine doing it if she had still been alive – she was never one to delegate that kind of task. It would have felt like preparing for the end, but we never got to do that with her.

    Lately, I have even had to dispose of some of her finished pieces that were broken. I will never have the time or money to get them fixed. Broken glass is just that, no matter how beautiful it once was. I figure I’m just lucky that I still have some truly lovely pieces.


    • Thank you, dear, it means a lot to me that you share your experience of losing your artist mother. What special childhoods artist’s children have, and what special burdens we carry when they are gone.
      Hugs back…..

  2. All of my best to you, Laura. *hugs* I know the feeling. I read this, and I cried for the both of us.

    My mother and I took our respective benzos and went to visit her mother / my grandmother today.

    She slept. We stood and murmurred to each other while she slept. She looked awful, her skin translucent and her mouth agape. And while we talked, she stirred, making agonized faces. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to see for myself. I’ve never been adult enough to have to stand by someone’s side. It is more like anxiously standing at the foot of her deathbed, watching her slip away, and glancing at the clock on the wall, counting the minutes until she completely forgets who i am, or simply passes out of this world.

    I’m so sorry. I really am. I’m here if you need to just talk.

  3. This post is so heartfelt……..you are a wonderful writer and I look forward to following your journey.

  4. Sweetheart.

    As crap and cliched as this may sound, you aren’t throwing out his life. He will live in your heart and mind forever, he will live in the memories of all the people whose lives he touched. I suspect they are beyond number, even beyond what you may imagine.

    We have a hand-carved wooden train for underneath the Christmas tree. All of my life I have loved this train wildly. There are five cars which you can change the order of by means of wooden pegs and holes. As a child, I used to load that train up with all of my little animals and various friends and drive it all around our house. As an adult, I took pictures of my Babygirl doing the same.

    The thing about this train, it has no caboose. It has never had a caboose. The man who lovingly carved each of the other five cars, a friend of a family friend, died before he completed the caboose. My mother told me this when I was young, as I will one day tell my Babygirl.

    It seems so sad, on the face. But Laura, I wouldn’t remember a thing about that train’s maker if it hadn’t happened. And while I never knew his name, I suspect he would much rather someone remember him by this work of art he created, which has reaped joy probably more than he ever could have anticipated.

    I don’t know your father. I smile to think of you in his studio when you were young, and my heart chokes to think of what you’re going through now. But I will always know your father in you. Whatever else happens, I know that you have touched my soul and I will remember you always. And when I think of you, I will think of your love for your father. He will never be out of this world, as long as one person who knew and loved him or knew of him and loved him or beheld one of his beautiful creations – a master ceramic work, or a daughter – is alive and remembers.


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