Monday, January 10, 2011

the paintbrush

"What you really want is closure," he said. I had called him knowing I was in peril. I asked him what he thought I should feel. He's pretty good at feeling stuff.

But I'm not so sure he's right. I'm not sure closure is attainable in cases like this. Just as I'm not sure there could be such a thing as forgiveness or redemption.

"You're so detached," she said. It really bothers her. It's always bothered her.

"Detached works for me," I replied. "That, and laughter."

She frowned.

"If you can't get closure for yourself," he said, "then get it for the children."

We were talking about whether I should fly down and pick up my inheritance. And make sure that the children's share was handled properly.

I've always known that this would be it. That were there redemption in the world, this would be a good time for it. And if there were redemption, then there might be room for a little forgiveness.

The sins of the fathers...

"He wanted to abort you," she said. "He and his mother too." She tossed the latter in for good measure. She was talking about the biofather. I'd heard this story about a million times before.

"The way he told it," I said, "it was you who wanted the abortion." I'd only heard this one once. He told me this tale just before he died. He had had a great big smile on his face.

She'd been seething about this all week. Not at him for his version of the story, but at me. She thought I believed his version over hers.

That's when the thing about detachment had come up.

Detachment works for an anthropologist. In my business, who am I to decide whose truth is really true? I'm more interested intead that people tell these things at all. And in this case, I'm afraid laughter wasn't going to work too well. So. Detachment was all I had left. It's a pretty good default setting, in my opinion.

On his tombstone for some reason it is written "Husband, Father, Grandfather." Cognitive dissonance. I keep thinking, did this guy deserve to have these words written on his stone for all posterity — as if, maybe, he took these roles seriously?

What I'd really like to do is tell them there's been a mistake. That must be someone else's epitaph on his stone. They need to get it right. But no. Detachment. Just stand back. Further back. And watch it all unfold.

The house with the swimming pool goes to his wife's brother.

The art and antiquities and the rest gets divided into five parts. Two of which belong to his grandchildren. The kids whose inheritance their dad says I must protect.

For his daughter: his own artwork and his art supplies. He was a Chinese painter. Those long scrolls, with little people climbing up into the jagged mountains. Or pretty birds or flowers. Or just bamboo. He painted one masterpiece. A Mongolian on a horse in the steppe. It won a prize at a show somewhere. The only non-indigenous Chinese Chinese painter to win a prize.

That painting is mine. And the paintbrush he used is mine.

So. Here's what I feel. I feel honored that these things belong to me. They're much much more than I expected.

And when I've got my paintbrush maybe I'll be free. Or maybe it'll be just another piece of junk collected.

He didn't want a kaddish. He didn't get one either.


  1. Advice on seeking advice: Make more phone calls.

  2. Seems to me I did call you as well. We had a plan that was interrupted by cats. We both agree that cats always take precedence.

    But more phone calls? Apart from the three phone calls that I made, there was no one left to call. Not for this.

  3. Turns out there was a mistake. Cousin Trustee was looking at an old version of the Trust. The next version had OMIT next to my name — in his distinctive handwriting.

    No paintbrushes.
    No Mongolian horseman.

    No closure.
    And no kaddish.