My father was a brilliant, but eccentric, artist. He often did pastel portraits of friends and family, oil painted graphic pictures of troubadours fighting bulls, carved a trio of monkeys …
My father was a brilliant, but eccentric, artist. He often did pastel portraits of friends and family, oil painted graphic pictures of troubadours fighting bulls, carved a trio of monkeys simulating “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” and of me and my briefcase running off to work with 5 little kiddos hanging onto my skirt, complete with them carrying Sesame Street and Spiderman lunchboxes. My pride and joy is a statue of a squatting tiki god, with bright red eyes and glaring, white teeth. My love for this sculpture is not because of its looks, because it is quite ugly, but because of its history. When I was 12 years old, my dad proudly placed this creature (person?) on our fireplace mantle. Used to my father’s peculiarities, I did not think much of it.
That was a bad year for our family. My father decided to pack up and move to Wisconsin so he could work for his older brother. I hated leaving, made even more traumatic by my elementary school having a going away party with all my favorite junk foods, and making up a goodbye song. We put our house up for sale and adventured to Wisconsin. It was difficult, having to get adjusted to a new school and finding new friends. However, my dad soon learned that his brother would not accommodate his odd behaviors, (such as taking a nap during the day and sitting at his desk with his pants unzipped so he could be comfortable.) After about a month, we packed up and headed back to my childhood home in Warwick, which, fortunately, had not yet been sold.
Things returned to normal, until the day that my dad fell down the basement stairs and broke his leg in several places. Off to the hospital we went. Shortly thereafter, he developed a pain in his side, which he characteristically ignored until he was in agony. Again, he was rushed to the hospital, and into surgery for a burst appendix. It was touch and go with the peritonitis, but he was soon back to his eccentric, ornery self.
A month later, he got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and saw that the house was on fire. The over-filled lint trap of our gas dryer had burst into flames, which quickly became an inferno. He hobbled down to my brother’s bedroom and snatched him out of his bed as my mother and I ran out the front door. Standing in the neighbor’s yard across the street, it was very traumatic to watch our house burn as we waited for the firemen to arrive. By that time, the fire had reached our living room, and the brave men and women plowed right through with their water hoses. The entire house was black with smoke damage. It was still nighttime and there was no electricity, but on the fireplace mantle sat the squatting creature with bright white and red eyes and glowing shiny white teeth, unaffected by the smoke. This rattled several of the firemen, who found the brilliance of the white teeth and gleaming red and white eyes to be supernatural in nature.
The next day, the Providence Journal came down to do a story on the tiki statue, implying that the statue was bad luck. First, we had packed up and left it behind when we moved to Wisconsin, which did not work out. Then my dad fell down the stairs and broke his leg, and almost had a catastrophic result from a burst appendix. Then the house fire. All very unlucky happenings and supposedly attributable to an evil tiki god. “But WAIT!” interjected my mother, always the optimist. The carving was actually GOOD luck. When we moved back from Wisconsin, we were very lucky that our home had not been sold. When my father fell down the stairs, he could have broken his neck instead of his leg. There was a positive outcome from surgery for potentially deadly peritonitis, and the whole house could have burned down with us in it instead of stopping in the living room. Luck is in the eye of the beholder, and I am so fortunate that my mom’s eyes always sought out the positive.
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