I just used up the last of the felt markers Dad bought for me. He would have been pleased to know his gifts were still making their marks three years after the fact, their emphatic black strokes outlining elements on my mixed media art canvases.
I had just started on my contemporary portrait series, and Dad noticed I was using the ‘Sharpies’ as part of my artist’s pallet. Even if he couldn’t fully appreciate the works his support was unwavering, and he wanted to show it.
Fred—affectionately known as Poppy to family and friends—was a true gentleman and a gentle man. He lived his life with integrity and loved his family fiercely.
He was on his own for a long time after my mom passed away, and until I moved in with him in 2011. Almost immediately the gift-giving began.
One of my parents’ daily rituals had been ‘Happy Hour’, at four in the afternoon they would indulge, Dad in a mug of beer, Mum a glass of wine, either out on the deck of their Victoria townhouse, or in front of the fireplace in the living room.
The ritual was revived when I arrived, and that’s when bottles of wine began appearing in the liquor cabinet—inexpensive vintages, but part of a routine that gave Fred pleasure.
Then came the bubble bath—large, colourful bottles lining up, first on the bathroom counter, then stored in a growing collection under the sink.
In 2015 we moved from Victoria to the suburbs of Chemainus, on Cook Street, just down the hill from Wul’aam park. That’s when Dad got into another kind of sauce – Bragg Soy sauce.
Every week or so he’d place the large bottles on our kitchen counter. We couldn’t keep up, and added them to a growing stash in our pantry. Though they were clearly visible to Fred, it made no difference; the bottles still kept coming. We were concerned we wouldn’t be able to use them up by their best before dates.
The Bragg would be stuffed into his green backpack, or one of the two shopping bags which he would lug up the one and a half kilometre grade from the 49th Parallel Grocery to our front door. Check out clerks would marvel. Neighbours would offer him a lift, which he always politely declined, puzzled by their concern.
Still, they must have wondered what kind of layabouts would allow an elder in his mid-90s to haul their groceries home up Old Victoria Road.
Then came the health conscious, expensive, eighty percent cocoa chocolate bars, and finally the Sharpies, amongst the last assortment of gifts Dad offered before he passed.
Blister packs of five, accumulated by the dozen—because he knew I could use them for my art. The stock of felt pens burgeoned to overflowing, until you could probably draw a continuous line around the equator with my supply of Sharpies.
At least they were light for him to carry and didn’t have a best before date.
Dad passed a month before the COVID era began. Through the following years his Sharpies helped me complete more than fifty mixed media portraits, which will be exhibited this fall in the Lobby Art Gallery of the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.
The show is titled A Gathering of Women. Dad will attend the opening in spirit. I can honestly say that he has left his mark on my art, and just about everything else I do in my life.