Finding our Claude

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It took cars, trains and a taxi to meet Claude for our date, but Lyn had waited long enough for lunch at The Met.  Claude made reservations at the Members Only dining room which he knows holds a special place in my heart.  He also knows it has to be a seat by the window.  He forgot that it was February and fog covered the window on the day we chose to meet.  I did not care as the view from inside was bubbling with life.

I felt very tired as we sat down to lunch and got settled with my journal and pen in place with my ears wide open to take in all the conversations happening.  The idea of voices living their lives as opposed to the beeping of monitors heard as you lay in a hospital bed for weeks at at time was soulful.  I felt a layer revealing itself as a sketch waits for paint to further bring out the work in progress.

A work in progress was what I was.  I could not drive us to meet Claude due to my health, but a train made it possible.  My family would not have allowed me to go with just a book to meet Claude, but a friend was headed that way on business.  I immediately asked if we could tag along and she graciously accepted.  She had met Lyn before and had sat with me in the hospital on some of the worst nights I had.  One night she finally had to say, “I don’t know what you mean.”  I grabbed her hand so tight and motioned her to move her chair so I could see her.  I could not see out of my right eye and was not making any verbal sense.  I wanted her to move the chair to make sure she was still there.  I grabbed her hand tight to tell her not to leave.  She assured me she was not leaving and now she agreed months later to get Lyn and I to Claude.

When the train got to New York, we parted ways after the taxi line.  I was on my own for the first time in months.  My new friend, the driver, and I got into a conversation right away.  I told him I was going to see my paintings at The Met.  He was happy for me after seeing my pacemaker scar and hearing my story.  He then told his.  He has been a cabby for twenty years and has an eight year old daughter.  We talked about staying positive and he left me with this as I exited the cab.  He said, “I just want my daughter to know how much I love her.”  I thought that was interesting and I said, “She does.”

I am tired now after car and train rides.  It is a rainy February day as I wait the few minutes for The Met to open.  I look around.  I am alone.  I am alive and I made it to my paintings.  They are in there.  I am here.  I spent many nights waiting for them to end in the hospital waiting for the noises to stop as my head spun.  Mail was brought to me later on and mail from The Met would come, the magazine, membership renewal and mailers.  I would look at them knowing they meant nothing to those around me, but they did to me.  I wondered if I would ever see my paintings again.  I made a mental note “Lynn I will get us there to have lunch with Claude” and honestly did not even believe myself.  The thought of not ever seeing him again became my reality with my father.

I left for a semester in Europe and kissed him goodbye at the Myrtle Beach airport and that was the last time I said goodbye to him in person.  I was living in a castle in Holland with Emerson College traveling through Rome in February, 1990. I arrived back at the castle a day early to receive the news.  I flew back after his funeral knowing that opportunity was not to be given up and too expensive to walk away from.  I knew then I had my whole life to grieve, but many days were spent looking out at that moat and the grounds trying to heal.

As I worked to find my way through The Met, I did not allow myself a map.  I felt guided by my dad after my conversation with the cab driver.  He loved his daughter so much and I felt that message as I wandered through Egypt and China.  It was exhilarating and exhausting, but reservations for lunch were at noon, no time to waste.  I had already wasted months of my life; Lynn and I pushed on.

There it was the room with the impressionists and I searched for Claude no time for Van Gogh.  I stood there at the entrance to his room.  I melted into the floor and just knew I was meant to be there at that moment 11:11, to be exact.  It is a thing with me and my dad, now my son.  I did not want to take one more step. I did not want to be one step closer to this experience being a memory.  I have memories of this place and of my dad who never made it here.  My son has memories of me, but I want them to stay like these paintings have, which is why I write.  I want him to have on paper a place to go to know that I am there.  I am in those pages as I was in there when I could not tell him.

I would have jumped into the painting if I could. I got as close as I could with the rope between us to see each brush stroke.  The pain, the solace, the passion to make it right and everlasting.  I had not seen these particular paintings or noticed them the way I did today and they drew me in.  The Path, funny right, that is what I am all about helping people find their path and there it was his painting about a path hardly visible until you really look.

Almost time for lunch, I am writing feverishly and decide to sit on the bench and take it in.  I need to go up to the dining room.  I want to stay right here forever.  I get up and go look at my new favorite, closer and I see it.  A parent holding a child’s hand.  I felt it in my soul he was there and holding my hand.  I was not alone.

I tell my son all the time, let go of the pain when I am gone and find me there around you.  I do not know what happens over there, but he knows I will find a way.  He just has to be open to it.  Ok, time to take Lyn to lunch.  Claude got us a seat by the window.