My father and I spent a lot of time together. I have fond memories from my childhood of cuddling with him on the floor in the living room, watching TV and stealing his snacks. I would follow him around his gardens in our yard and in front of my parents’ store, trying to “help” as much as I could . And then as I got older, those special moments grew to take place in other places.
I’ve already talked about how my father was an artist. Naturally, one of his favorite places to go was the art museum at home. The Toledo Museum of Art is one of the greatest museums in our country. When my father was younger and unmarried, he took many classes there. I took a couple there as a child. My school frequently took us on field trips. Our family would go on occasion, especially when relatives were visiting from out of town.
When my father had a resurgence in desire to paint, he decided to embrace this by taking oil painting classes again. During his class, one of the exhibits that came to the museum was a special Van Gogh collection that was only appearing in Toledo and in NYC. He got to go for free with his class, but arranged to bring us with him one night. I cried, it was so beautiful.
Soon after that, the next semester of the oil class was starting up, so my father asked me if I wanted to join him. He did have an ulterior motive. It was hard for him to park and walk the distance to the museum classroom wing because of his emphysema and some really bad hip issues. He wanted me to drive him the half hour there, drop him off at the door, and then park the car. When the class ended, we would go in reverse. But also, he wanted me to try out oil painting with him and we got to spend some amazing quality time together.
I was frustrated with all of the preliminary projects I had to do for color theory and getting used to the oil paints, but understood it was necessary. When I came over to visit on weekends, Dad opened up his beloved oil painting box to me and allowed me to do whatever I wanted with them. I loved that freedom and was honored that he allowed me to share his materials with him. And we got to go to that Van Gogh exhibit for free again. (And still did it as a paid trip as well.)
(Side note – when my father passed away, I had every intention of keeping that old, beat up wooden box. Alas, people helping us clean out the house didn’t realize what it was and what it meant and tossed it in the dumpster before I could get near it. I cried for a week over that loss alone.)
After I moved away from the area, I made it a point to go to the art museum every single time I came home. When possible, I tried to bring at least my father with me. We got Mom to go a couple of times, but she was having a lot of back problems and the Alzheimer’s was starting to confuse her. And at the same time, I was okay with that because I did special outings with her still.
The last time that we went to the museum was on a Friday. We spent the whole day, slowly wandering it in its entirety and basking in front of some of our most beloved paintings. When we realized that the hour was getting late, we decided to check out what was playing in the Peristyle that night. The Toledo Symphony was scheduled to do a collection from Brahms. It was a little pricey, but Dad shelled out the cash to buy us a lovely dinner in the museum’s cafe and then tickets to the performance. The Peristyle was purposely built for ultimate acoustics, so anything you listen to there sounds perfect. This evening was no exception.
We didn’t realize at the time that it would be our last trip to the museum together, but that is okay. Somehow it was almost like we instinctively knew it could be, which is why we made such an evening out of it. It was magical in a lot of respects. To this day, I still get a little teary whenever I hear Brahms.
I still try to go to the museum every time I go home. I feel connected to my father when I am there. I admit I get a little teary looking at his favorite works of art. But beautiful art also moves me, so that is going to happen regardless.
I was so upset my last trip that I couldn’t go at all. It’s my happy place, and I needed it since I had just lost my mom and had been so sick. But I was barely walking, couldn’t drive, and there just wasn’t any time. I look forward to going again whenever I have a chance to get back there.
And to all of those daddies and daughters out there, try to remember to spend some quality time together. It doesn’t have to be as grand as going to a museum, dinner, and music. Like I said, even watching TV with my father made me happy. I even remember sitting at a Big Boy together late at night when I was having one of those 19-year-old existential crises or hours just talking on the phone. Those are the moments that will stick when you are no longer together. Cherish every single one of them.
Catch up on my 2019 A to Z Challenge here.
Read posts from my old challenges:
D is for Daddy (2012)
Read my challenge about my mother over on my other blog here.