Years in the Making
“One can speak poetry just by arranging colors well.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
My eldest son is an artist, specifically a muralist.
He paints walls, specifically large ones, the larger the better.
After months and months of painstaking planning and preparation, he began a project that has simultaneously evoked excitement and terror: the side on an 18-story apartment building.
He began the last week of April and is about half-way done. 10,000 square feet.
He’d had his eye on this particular building—a stand-alone focal point passed by thousands of cars daily on intersecting highways in Hartford, Connecticut—and had showed it to me when I visited him three years ago.
I promised him that if the opportunity came his way and he got the chance to paint it, I’d drive down from Canada to support him, do his laundry, walk his dog, make sure there was food in the refrigerator, because I know my single son: He’s an artist—food is an afterthought.
Finally, doors opened, and talks began two years ago. Designs were submitted—and unanimously approved, a rare thing indeed in the art world.
Mike has been over the moon and nervous as hell: Could he execute his vision? The scale of it alone! He’s operated lifts and climbed up and down ladders, but an 18-story building is on another level, a whole new level of execution, opportunity, and recognition…
… years in the making…
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
If you asked any group of parents what they want most for their children, I’d be willing to bet all of them would respond simply, “For my kid to be happy.”
Now, we could spend some time defining the word happy, but let’s not. Let’s just assume it means your child is pleased with him/herself and feels hopeful about their life. (Let us also assume it includes also being able to care for and financially support themselves.) How about we agree on the word ‘fulfilled’?
And I believe most parents, at least in hindsight, might be able to pinpoint a moment or two when they witnessed their child grow an inch internally; a time when that child had to really stretch for a goal, and in their reaching for it, they stepped up and into a higher version of themselves; a time when character was forged, confidence born, talent revealed.
It is rare thing to be physically present for those moments when they happen, and glorious when they do: your son hits the winning basket at the buzzer, or your daughter lands her dance recital solo, or wins an art prize or a writing competition… parents thrill to those fleeting moments of victory and success.
It is rarer still to witness your adult child become whom he always wanted to be and joyfully jump into the arms of his potential. After a certain age, I believe those moments mostly happen in private, off our parental radar screen. We get telephone calls or emails from our children sharing their moments of triumph.
So, it has been perhaps the greatest gift of my life (thus far) that for the past month, I’ve been blessed to watch that potential’s unfolding, in my first-born son, as he grew into his skin, on an immense wall in front of cameras and news crews.
It’s a wondrous thing to watch someone crash through the top of their comfort zone.
But more, I was conscious during the unfolding, aware of his metamorphosis and this precious passage of time… of nuance and need, of his stretching and reaching, of his yearning to touch a part of himself and his talent that he believed lay inside: To strike the eureka of purpose.
Conscious. Aware. Present.
And that is the most joyous part for me, not that my son has struck gold and accomplished his vision, exceeded it, in fact, but that I stayed present for the entire journey, without worry or concern—through his anxiety and doubt and hope and belief—with a sort of dispassionate yet joyful, silent observation of it all.
A Seals & Crofts lyric keeps rolling around my brain, an ear worm relentlessly reminding me to cherish this slice of time, to notice all the details: “We may never pass this way again, no we may never pass this way again… so I’m gonna’ laugh while the laughing is easy.”
Today, Monday May 22, finds me on the road once again. My month is up, my son has catapulted into a world class category of muralists, grown more confident, his laundry is clean, and there is food in the refrigerator.
Time to go home, to my new home in Belleville, Ontario (that I have yet to see in person), eager to start a new chapter (stay tuned – more on that in coming weeks), feeling fulfilled and grateful.
May has been a magnificent month of grace-filled meaning…
… years in the making.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” ~Denis Waitley