My sister Illia and I entered and exited our vortex weekend unscathed. By “vortex weekend,” I am referring to this past weekend, steeped in all things Georg. By “unscathed,” I mean that although we had moments when tears were the only option, we also had many more moments when there was nothing to do but laugh. I know my dad would have wanted it that way. By “that way,” I mean, he would have wanted to see us sharing more laughter than tears.
On Saturday, we started to inventory all the art work in Georg’s studio. By “inventory,” I mean that we spent several hours with two friends unrolling his large drawings. One of these friends lives in Michigan and he knows my father’s art better than my sister or I do. He told us things that he remembered about the creation of each piece. He is a treasure trove of information. We need him.
The other friend is newer and he is generously providing the space where the inventory process can happen. I view him as an angel who came out of nowhere unexpectedly to help us. (I’m sure he would humbly decline this nomination, but this is my blog, and I can say what I want.) Illia and I are grateful to both of them. Together, we measured, we photographed, we described. Although we didn’t get very far, at least we created a system and the project has now officially begun.
Then, on Sunday, we had Georg’s memorial service. Friends came from far and near. By “far and near” I mean I was impressed by the array of locations and by the time periods represented by these different faces: There was Georg’s old friend with whom he worked second shift at Walgreen’s as a young man who came up from Glencoe with his wife. There was a new friend who met Georg about about six months ago here in town who started to make a documentary film about him. Dad’s life was full of friendships.
Illia and I both spoke, as did my cousin Peter. We said prayers and sang a hymn. We showed a montage of images sharing some of Dad’s life and art that my brother-in-law had put together and set to music for us. Afterwards, we drank coffee and ate melomacarona (by that I mean Greek honey cookies) and other sweet treats in the fellowship hall with our guests.
Throughout the weekend, we had great fun with my cousins, Peter and Anthony, Peter’s wife, Colleen, and my Aunt Helen (dad’s sister) who came all the way from Michigan to be with us. This was a good thing, because it felt like the imprint of Georg was upon us. By “imprint,” I mean the tradition of family and the history that a group of people share when they have been together since before they could identify the concept of “together.” Back when “together” was an experience to be lived, not an idea to ponder.
Right now, all is quiet and I am back home where dust settles. By “dust settles,” I mean I am trying hard to let go of pictures of Georg that make me sad, and hold only the ones that make me happy.
Sad image: I am sitting next to his hospital bed watching him try to eat cottage cheese the last few days he was alive. He could barely bring the spoon to his mouth. His progress was painfully slow.
Happy image: I am twelve years old and Georg and I are about fifteen miles from home on an after-dinner bike ride. It is dusk on a summer evening and the country road we are traveling is lined with Queen Anne’s lace. We pedal hard and keep our mouths shut so gnats don’t fly in. When we get home later, we each enjoy a dish of Baskin Robbins ice cream.
It is so much better to hold images of Dad when he was hale and hearty, not when his body became frail. If I am relieved to have survived the little mini-vortex I just went through this past weekend, imagine what Georg’s vortex was like. By “Georg’s vortex,” I mean, getting through his vortex of the last nine months was profoundly more difficult, I’m sure, and now that he has mastered it, the relief must be divine.