It was a double whammy! It has been exactly a year since my father passed away; and this traditional year of mourning has taken on new meaning for me. My dad was a collector and a bit of a hoarder, so emotionally and physically it has just about taken all that time to go through his many and varied collections. Among the boxes of birthday cards, golf balls, tees, and old receipts, was the gem: his art collection. My sister and I had saved it for last because it was the most complicated and had the most emotional resonance for us, as we had grown up with these paintings.
As a young man, and a newly minted dentist, my dad would swap his expertise for then unknown works of “soon to be famous” New York artists. Blank walls were an anomaly in every home in which my mom and dad lived. Before the holidays, my sister and I took down everything and carted it back to New York City where we were going to make sense of not only the beautiful works of art but of our many memories.
Being New Yorkers we did what most New Yorkers would do – we put our things in storage during the hectic Christmas holidays. One year after his death, we learned that my father’s 60-year collection of art had been stolen right from the storage unit. We were stunned. We felt violated and “raped”, coupled with a righteous anger. Disbelief and incredible sadness mixed in as a new kind of mourning took hold.
Inwardly I screamed, “They’re only material possessions” but I had to reconcile that loss with what it represented. My dad had amassed a collection that reflected his passion and joy in discovery and life. He didn’t hang the art to show to other people, but rather almost like friends. Each piece held a story and those stories became fabrics in my sister and my life as well.
Truly, no amount of material possessions can replace the lessons my father taught me on a daily basis. He modeled the way to live life to the fullest, with a passion and a purpose. This art was supposed to remind me of these lessons, and now I only have my own memories as his legacy.
I have begun to write down my memories and the stories of his art collection to hand down to my son. This new phase of mourning is kept in a notebook where I jot down all the gifts my parents were able to give me. I am almost at the point where the memories are becoming more meaningful than the paintings we have lost.