Photos of the two artists taken at roughly the same age.
Photos of the two artists taken at roughly the same age.
While all three of my children have a good measure of creative talent none of them chose to enter a creative field, a decision brought about by a lifetime of watching the hoops I had to continually jump through to collect on invoices. I can’t blame them as I’ve had similar sentiments, often wishing I’d stayed in the army for thirty or even stayed on a roustabout at Swanson River.
However, there are times when I’d liked to have seen one of my kids carry on the tradition.…which it makes me all that happier when I see one of my grandchildren pick up a pencil or start smashing clay around. All seven of them “make stuff” to some extent but Conrad’s middle son Henry shows the strongest creative inclination, and while I’ve sent drawings via post cards to all the kids Henry gets special treatment.
Most recently he sent us a drawing of “The Lord of the Moon” and I felt compelled to respond in kind. I don’t know much about “The King of the Moon” but I have read couple of graphic novels about Marvel’s Batman-clone Moon Knight, so I came with a MK drawing to match Henry’s “Moon Lord”. I will be sending a couple copies to him this coming week to include a finished version colored with Prismacolor designers’ markers as well as a couple of plain B&W copies that Henry can color himself.
I may be a day’s drive away from most of my grandkids but I still try to be part of their lives.
In our never-ending war against clutter an occasional gem will float to the surface, as was the case last Sunday when I found a little black & white photo in a pile of papers I was sorting. It dates from March of 1977, it was taken at the BYU ROTC/AFROTC Military Ball, and was taken shortly before we got married. Despite the fuzzy focus it remains one of my favorite photos as perfectly captures not just our appearance but the essence of the moment.
…and even though more than 42 years have gone by the same can be said for the other photograph in today’s post , that “capture-the-moment” vibe is still there. It’s a different kind of moment now, but one that is just as precious to me.
Because it is usually displayed as a fairly small image most people don’t recognize my avatar as anything but some sort of alien, when in fact he is a Pak Protector. Pak Protectors are an invention of noted SF author Larry Niven and figure prominently in his Known Space cycle of stories. They are an old race from a world near the core of our galaxy, a world with high radiation levels and crowded conditions that brought on rapid and extensive evolution.
The Pak go through three stages in life with the first two analogous to human child and adult states, but instead of expiring at our own “three-score-and-ten” limit they go into a third phase of existence known as the Protector stage, which is brought on after a breeder ingests a tuber called Tree-of-Life which a contains a virus that acts as an evolutionary trigger. Humanity is descended from a colony of Pak breeders stranded on Earth millennia ago when the Protectors that established the colony died when their Tree-of-Life crops failed. The original Pak Breeder population evolved into modern humans and all primates of our world would transform into the Protector stage if exposed to Tree-of-Life root.
The transformation produces positive characteristic “improvements” that mirror the negative aspects of aging:
All these changes make Protectors extremely efficient fighting machines, which is just as well as protection and survival of their family becomes their sole reason for living and their lives become one constant battle with other Protectors living on a crowded world with limited resources.
The most significant change is increased cranium size and brain mass which results in phenomenal increase in intelligence, which is why one of the first remarks a newly transformed Protectors is “I’ve been so stupid”…a sentiment I find myself expressing many times since passing age sixty. The experience surviving to your seventh decade alone imparts a lot of wisdom and if you’ve endeavored to learn from your mistakes you end with knowledge and judgement that would rival Mr. Niven’s creations.
There is a dilemma that comes with that knowledge: what do you do with it? In times past elders/seniors/geezers were accorded a measure of respect and their counsel was considered valuable. It sure doesn’t seem that way now though – most of the time people look at me and just see a member of the “fifty-five-to-dead” demographic with the more extreme voices advocating euthanasia or other marginally less drastic measures to reduce the cost of elder care on society as a whole.
I try not to think about the situation, in fact when my when my autoimmune issues started ramping up in the late 1990s and I was first diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. I took a page from the handbook of an eleven-year-old coping with the idea of Santa Claus: I embraced the idea of “well, what if Tree-of-Life really did exist” and instead of chronic pain and limited movement looked forward to life as a totally bad-a** senior citizen,
…a feeling that lasted for maybe three minutes at most and I embraced those small Pak traits I did end up with, namely a fiercely protective and supportive love of for my children, grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren… and a desire to use whatever insights gained from my “I’ve been so stupid” epiphany to help them find an easier road in Life than I walked.
Jayden gets the lion’s share of write-ups but I do have other grandchildren that can lay equal claim to my heart. Last week I received a packet in the mail from my older son and his family in Maryland, a packet full of letters and pictures that were all equally wonderful…but there was one image that really fascinates me.
It was created by a grandson I call “Hank the Tank”. It would be natural to assume that I favor him because he bears the strongest resemblance to me as a child, but he also has a slightly tilted outlook on life that I love. He brings to mind another square peg in a round hole from decades ago.
Some of the imagery is recognizable but there is an element of the surreal that is very intriging. I see whales, submarines, Zeppelins and rockets …and I have to wonder about the story behind it all.
Eight months ago I moved my studio from a shoebox sized sitting room off the kitchen to the much roomier bonus room on the second floor. There were several reasons for the move, not the least being the good vibes I get in sitting in a room resembling my attic loft back in Sterling. The move also forces me to negotiate a set of stairs at least four times a day, providing the exercise that is too easy for me to avoid given the chronic pain I deal with.
Sometimes the stairs provide more than exercise. When I went to visit the second-floor bathroom this afternoon I found that there was no tissue to be found anywhere, which prompted me to head downstairs for the hall bathroom. I had no sooner started down the steps when I slipped/tripped/mis-stepped which caused me to fall down the rest of the flight. As I was bouncing between the banister and the opposite wall I kept waiting for that avalanche of pain that accompanies a fracture but evidently judo and jump school taught me how to fall correctly and so far the only damage I’ve found is some pretty ugly bruises.
I’ve been murmuring continual quiet prayers to myself – this could have gone SO badly for me but so far the only damage is to Jaybug’ s eardrums when I set a record for consecutive “son of a bitch” utterances. The incident also taught me one very important lesson:
“Always keep the upstairs bathroom stocked with toilet paper!”
You wouldn’t know it by my current profile, but I fenced in college – two years foil and one year saber. I did my best to continue the sport after graduation but other than weak jokes about replacing the rails and tightening the wire around the back pasture I found little interest among friends and family. As time went by and my waistline expanded I sold or gave away most of my gear so I was surprised to find two (each) masks, sabers and gloves while cleaning up the garage this last weekend.
Any thought of a clean escape quickly evaporated as My Star Pupil took notice of the equipment as well ; since that discovery we’ve had two sessions with the sabers. I decided right off that we weren’t going to just goof around and aimlessly smack each other – I’ve taped off a properly-proportioned-but-smaller piste on the shop floor and we work on technique and terms before any Errol Flynn stuff. He’s pretty sharp for a little guy and can remember the 2, 4 and 6 positions most of the time. Lori says she can still see a little bit of form in my movements but I tell her she is just watching me with her 1977 glasses….
Every weekend my Star Pupil and I try something new and this week it was use of an ax. It was a skill that really wasn’t on the schedule but a box of tools I recently gave him unfortunately included a sort of multi-tool-on-steroids that inexplicably included an ax blade…and as anyone with kids will tell you glaciers can be moved by hand before you’ll get a five-year-old boy to change his mind about something like this.
After a safety briefing we spent about forty-five minutes in the shop chopping away and eventually produced the sundered one-by-two you see in this photo. The process could have been faster but one too many roadrunner cartoons convinced him logs literally jump into with one direct chop with an axe held straight on. I’d demonstrate alternate chopping at an angle but then he’d politely correct me and attempt to bludgeon the board in half.
We finally succeeded in parting the one-by-two and now he’s out with his mom visiting friends while I am busy hiding every other cutting implement before he gets back.
My sister Robin and I both spent most of our teens out of step with our own generation. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly why that happened – it could have been the frequent moves, our parent’s influence or our own inclination – but at the end of the day it worked out simply that we had more in common with our parents’ generation than our own.
It made for some interesting experiences in the classroom and I’ve often wondered what life would have been like had I fallen in line with the rest of my fellow post-peak Baby Boomer peers. I wonder about that because I see the same thing happen with my Star Pupil AKA my grandson Jayden. He gets more time around grandparents than most kids – a slightly skewed experience that will be even more skewed because of my own square-peg-round-hole experience.
For example – his experience with personal electronics differs from that of his friends. Oh, we still have to use a crowbar to peel him away from phones and tablets, but he also has plenty of non-digital influences surrounding him. Case in point is his tool kit. He’s intensely interested in my activities so in an effort to preserve my own tool kit I’ve made up a set of his own, to include a hammer, pliers, some odd combination wrenches and both types of screwdrivers. I’ve also prepared a two-by-four with pre-drilled holes and several screws of both standard and Phillips flavors.
I think he may come out of my youth a little more “handy” than most kids his age.
I normally don’t share the “letter pages” – the left-hand side information that supplements rather than tells the story – but this drawing turned out kind of nice. It’s a pirate sub by the name of Crimson Cod and is central to a plot twist in DKJ&SS.