My father was a tough Greek man. He was short in stature but BIG in personality and talent. My father wasn’t educated by traditional standards. He never completed the 6th grade. His father died when he was 11 and it was the depression era, so time to work. He went off-path and wound up spending some time in prison. He referred to that period of his life as the “college years”. And it truly was. There he learned his trade…painting.
As far back as I can remember I remember paint. Dad had paint on almost everything. Watches, shoes, clothes. We used to tell him he missed a golden opportunity in the 80’s when the splatter paint phase came out. He should have led that!
He would get up early every morning, eat his eggs and bacon and hit the road for often a 12+ hour day. He would return home at night tired. And then he would repeat it the next day. Most every day for more than 30 years.
He started teaching me when I was about eight years old. At first it was fun stuff. He was always redoing rooms in our house for my mom…he’d let me slop paint on a wall until I got bored,
Later, he would repair the damage and then tell me what a good job I did. It built confidence in my abilities behind the brush. Later we tackled wallpaper, stain and faux techniques before that was really a thing.
When I got a little older he would take me on his weekend side jobs on occasion where we would put in a half-day (6am to 6pm). He had little regard for child labor laws. I didn’t mind so much. I craved his attention as our home life wasn’t always filled with bliss and joy. These moments I treasure even more now that he’s gone.
Over the years I have picked up a brush more often than I can count. I have painted through two previous homes (and now a third). I painted the last one so often Mel’s hubby, Jeff, used to tease me about the loss of square footage!
I have had the privilege of helping others with their projects, painting my way through my share of cabinets (never again!). I have taught others how to paint, cut in, faux paint. I have found joy in it along the way. I often call painting my zen. It is a place I can center myself and shut down my very busy mind. It is the place I connect most with my dad.
This year marks the year I will have spent exactly half my life without my dad. He died 24 years ago this November. I have spent many hours these past six days in communion with his memory rehashing good times and bad and being thankful for the lessons he imparted to me. But most of all, he’s gained a level of respect from me that could have only happened in my adult years, in my parenting years.
I really don’t think I grasped the sacrifices he made of time and health to support his family. He was a laborer…painting was his love language. I have benefitted one way or another my entire life through his trade. Painting is HARD work. I have said many times over these days painting our new home “I don’t know how the man did it for 40 years day in and day out” but actually I think I do. It’s what he knew. Painting saved his life in the beginning, provided for his family along the way, and probably cut it short at the end, but it was who he was. Simple Sam, we used to call him. A husband, a painter, a dad. A legacy that he left with me and I am forever grateful.