In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy. --
And so I am, grateful that is. I am grateful to all of you who have stood by me during these last few months of change. I am thankful to those of you who thought enough of me to be with me on my road to recovery from this “double whammy” of diabetes and cancer. I wrap my arms about those of you who went “the extra mile” and bore me on your shoulders for a time, handing me off to those that had strength anew for the next mile and then the next mile. You know who you are. To single you out would be something not necessarily what you would want so I will keep silent about what you did for me during these tremulous times. There are, however, some things you must all know and so, I begin with the happiness I feel for being grateful to all of you.
I need not repeat the circumstances from which I write. I do want to speak of some things that brought us together and that may well keep us bonded in the future. These are things of “release,” things that paved my road to where I am now and if the universe be kind, are a view to smooth surface forward. Should the past be prologue, then what I write here may well have us—well, some of us—joined in an adventure, great or small, but an escapade, nonetheless.
I thank you for accepting me as I am, warts and all. You have blessed me with friendship and loving unknown to me in recent times. It is not so much that is has not been there, but that I have been blind to these two angels—friendship and love. The blindness came as I focused totally inward, staring at my “bellybutton” and hoping good feelings would emanate and envelope me.
It was you that brought me the warmth of the sun, living as I was as a character in Aesop’s Fables, causing me to drop that cloak. It was you that encouraged me to stride out of this self-imposed dislocation from a different reality, you who said, “…you have hundreds of friends, who all love you…” It was you who told me that “…many were waiting to give back to you after you had served so many, way back when.” It was you that held my hand as I wept, begging forgiveness for my silently leaving you so long ago, not a word forthcoming about my departure, just turning on my heels and heading off “…into the sunset.”
I am back among you, now, and I am grateful that you welcomed my return, if indeed quietly. I am happy because I am grateful to all of you.
What brought all this on started with the word from my immediate former wife who said one Thursday night that she was moving out on Saturday, laying down a 20 year marriage, much like laying down a tool whose usefulness was complete. Naturally, I was stunned. I’d seen no signs of disturbance. I was aware of no petulant behavior on my part, for sure. The bills were being paid on time. “Baby Girl,” my daughter, was advancing well in school both in classes and socially, being popular and articulate as she was overwhelmingly elected to class office. What could be so wrong that a break-up was in the offing? My carousing habits were long gone. Diabetes had surfaced making me a “cripple” of sorts. I did not drink anymore. I dropped any extracurricular activities long ago to concentrate on my work to come straight home every night. While we may have eaten lunch and dinner in separate rooms in front of separate TV’s, that didn’t appear strange; after all we had done that for years. Yet, all of a sudden, I was to be alone, without the accompaniment of family for the first time in 20 years.
“We’re too much like roommates,” she said. “I don’t want to live like that for the rest of my life. And there are those ‘transgressions’ for which I will not forget or forgive. You’re on your own, Buddy.” To say my jaw dropped to my knees would be an understatement; more like dropped to my ankles. I thought I had made improvements over my previous life. I thought I was now an upstanding guy. I thought I was respected by friends and family alike for my posture, poise and confidence. I thought my integrity showed through, that what I thought, said and did were all the same thing. I thought I could be counted upon to “deliver the goods.” I thought I was good enough to keep around for the next 30 or 40 years. I thought the phrase, ‘…’til death do us part” was the watchword in this relationship. Here I was, though, being told that I was lacking in the most basic ways, that I was no longer interesting or funny or attractive in any way. I was unacceptable as I was, improved version or not.
Interestingly, as I was confronted with this new level of nonconformity, I felt two things. One was rejection, of course, of the grandest kind. After all these years, I was no longer adequate to stand within this family’s limits. I was being pushed out much like the adolescent male wolf is shunted aside from the core family, never again to participate in family things, forever on his own, hunting alone. The loneliness was immediate and breath-taking. I was to be a “no-name,” never again associated with family celebrations of birthdays, holidays, even funerals. I would have to make appointments to see my daughter. I would never again sit at the head of a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table; not that we did anything different from regular meals on these days, anyway. I would never again hear, “Hi, Daddy” from either of them. I would never again hear, “
The other feeling was one of relief. It was done, the marriage, I mean. I lauded her courage in declaring it over and moving on. I wanted out years ago but, never had the nerve to say this was not for me, child within the marriage or not. I didn’t think I should be the one to end it, leaving them to fend for themselves as I sought other pastures. That she did meant I was released. That she did was a result of a long path of thought and planning that brought us to this end. I lauded that, too. She was able to keep me completely in the dark about her campaign to cut me loose. Her patience was extraordinary; she might have been planning this for years. The proof was she waited until my daughter’s 18th birthday to spring this on me; now she wouldn’t have to grant me any special privileges because my daughter was underage. That she required nothing special from me was testament to her kindness and graciousness through all this divorce stuff.
Still, I was relieved and grateful that she had “pulled the trigger.” Among other reasons, I could now pursue my art without any recriminations from her or any guilt from me. Before this, if I so much as bought an art pad and some colored pencils, I was branded as taking food out of our mouths. If I tried to discuss what I really wanted to do—create art—I faced rolled eyes. I had come into the marriage an artist yet, as I went along, I saw that having a “job” was the only way to create happiness within the union. I ”laid down” thoughts of a successful artistic career and worked in customer service for most of the marriage. As my wife and daughter left and moved into their new “digs,” I turned the now-spare bedroom into a studio and began creating designs for a new subject matter: erotic stained glass windows.
My designs were accepted by a number of important glass artists and I went forward to construct them. Eventually, I staged a one-man show in early 2004--downtown at a local restaurant—which lasted a month. I thought myself an artist, at last.
Not much later in 2004 two things happened that changed my life: I got fired and my mother passed away, leaving me a sum of money (enough to live on for about 18 months). Losing the job was a happy circumstance as I hated it anyway. Gaining the inheritance allowed me to pay off my car and some debts but I was ill-prepared for this “sudden money” and ended up spending it on fast cars, fast women and fast times. The rest I just frittered away… I’m kidding, of course, about frittering it all away. I didn’t realize just how much expenses went out each month in general—food, rent and gas to name a few items. I did try a few businesses along the way but, my heart was still in creating art which I continued to do during all this. Eventually, despite the constant urging and encouraging of business friends, I laid these down, working on art 10 to 14 hours a day.
As life would have it, I needed to support myself and went to work for a couple temporary hire firms during 2006. I stayed with them until I was fired—again—just as I entered the hospital for this most recent round of unpleasantness because of calling in sick once too often. Since then, many of you have come forward to offer support of various kinds, for which I am eternally grateful. Social Security handed me a portion of what I’ve contributed in a lifetime of work. The State gave me food stamps and health insurance. So far, I have the basics, like bagels and cream cheese with coffee in the morning at home. I can buy gas though I don’t travel much. I have the internet, email, basic cable (paid for by what I charge two housemates to share it) and a cell phone. I am happy because of being grateful for all this and more.
I am also grateful for you, my viewing public. You allowed me into your homes and places of work. You may have said, “Goodie! Another piece from Dick; I’ll view it now!!” Then again, you may have simply clicked “delete.” Some of you have responded; most have not. No matter; that you even opened something from me or visited my sites is indeed a blessing. You allowed me to ensconce myself in a small corner of you, if only for a moment. You may or may not like what I do or say but, again, I am grateful for your glance. I’ve learned one thing during all of what I’ve gone through: for me, creativity is my driving force, my raison d’etré. If I can create artistically, I am incredibly happy to reflect what is in me through brush and paint, l albeit through a PC. If I can join sentences together in some order and be understood, I am grateful beyond any words I can find. I am eternally grateful that I can communicate—so far as I can tell—in art and words, spoken or written. I’ve discovered talents, though not lying fallow, were dormant until recent events sharpened them. And though I am grateful as hell that you read or look at what I do, I leave you with anticipation.
You are but a small enclave of people directly addressed by me. I’ve gleaned that your intelligence is above average. I’ve discovered your tolerance and acceptance levels as none of you (so far) have said, “Enough! Drop me from your mailing list!” You have a good sense of humor, collectively. And you are special to me from a very significant point of view: you are the first to read what I write and see what I produce. You may not like either but still you are the first. You may agree or disagree but nothing changes your prominence as first. You may or may not own any of my art which doesn’t really matter--someone else outside of this special circle may be the first to do that. Still, what is unchanging is that you saw or read it here first. I am grateful that you were first. You allowed me to experiment before you in words or visually. I practiced my various crafts in front of you, first, before going out to a larger audience thoroughly prepared. For now, I listen to whatever feedback you offer. Later, I may not be as approachable simply because of engagements on my time. I anticipate that what I do now, with you, will expand not only here, within the
Mark my words. You will always be able to say you were the first to know of my body of work, literary and artistic. Others may propel me to prominence and wealth, but it is on your shoulders I stand. It is to you I will point when asked how I got my start, from where I came.
So far, it has been a great privilege to share my thoughts and feelings with you.
I can tell you, I am happy because I am grateful.