Chronicles in Ordinary Time 31: Do Overs

My birthday. Technically it was yesterday, but I haven’t been to sleep yet, so it’s still today. My Mother-in-Law was 30 years and one day older than I; this would have been her 91st birthday…
An odd week. A member of our ‘adopted family’ died a couple days ago. I didn’t like her very much, but we’re the only ‘family’ she had in Oregon. My wife was a voluntary care-giver for her, and by the Grace of God grew to like her. She wasn’t a very likeable person; angry most of the time, and feeling sorry for her poor health, and the way people took advantage of her. In my honest moments, I realize that ‘there, but for the Grace of God, go I.’ It’s humbling.
Encouraging a person’s positive traits wasn’t normal procedure in my family, growing up. A lot of put-downs. When I got to college, and was finally out of my Dad’s influence, I was a real smart-ass. I enjoyed insulting people in such a way that they mostly didn’t realize they were getting insulted.
I found that people didn’t really enjoy my behavior. Being an Only, I desperately wanted people to like me, so I decided I needed to change my behavior. Didn’t really know how to make that happen. By the time I’d finished my 5th year, the Creator had come into my life, and I had become a different person.

I can’t say that I understand how this came about. I had no religious upbringing. The Creator became PRESENT for me in a tangible, but subjective way. No burning bushes, no getting thrown off my horse and blinded. But it feels like a similar experience. I became a very unwilling convert to a way of life I didn’t really realize that I had been looking for. I can’t NOT believe, even if I wanted to; I’d have to ignore too much that I’ve experienced.

In college I became torn between majoring in Art or majoring in Architecture. I wanted to major in Illustration, but had neglected to find a college that enabled me to do that sort of thing. The concept of majoring in “Starving Artist” seemed silly, so I decided I’d ‘draw houses’. Never wanted to be an architect. I became contractor, a building designer, a Building Plans Examiner, and then, 15 years ago, I opted for Starving Artist…when I’m not being an architectural consultant.
If I’d been given the opportunity of a Do Over, I would have chosen Starving Artist as a career much earlier on; and possibly changed my life forever. I might have not taken the road where my ‘burning bush’ was burning…There’s a very good chance that I would have become an angry, self-absorbed person, like our recently departed ‘family member’. I can see that kind of storyline in my family history…

Five years ago I gave myself a birthday present–a hand-tooled, custom-made leather belt, with the words, “Mercy Response NOLA 2008” to commemorate a trip to New Orleans with Medical Teams International, to help with Katrina Recovery. At the time I was giving some serious consideration to moving to N’Orlens for several months, in order to give the young couple directing Mercy Response a break. They were clearly exhausted, and as a former contractor, I realized that I was skilled in doing what was needed.
Life got in the way, and then the neuropathy hit. By the summer of 2009, it became very clear that working on houses was no longer going to be part of my life. It’s dangerous working with tools when you’ve lost the sense of touch and pain… Four years later, I’m wiped out by making dinner, or walking up our hill. I know I’m not going to use my shop full of tools, but I have trouble getting rid of them–an unwillingness to let go of a very important part of my past. So, I’m pleased when my kids borrow them and I have no need to have them returned.

When my doc tells me that aside from the neuropathy I’m in good health, and have a long life ahead of me, my inner response is, ‘oh shit. I don’t want to do this for a long time. Morning [my ‘morning’] sucks. Can’t I go Home?’ I want a Do Over, but I’m not sure what I would have done differently…

Jim_DellaThese two showed up in my life recently, and quite unexpectedly…
Writers often talk about how their characters often take on a ‘life of their own’ and end up writing their own stories.
I started illustrating a short story in 1996. I worked on it fairly steadily for a time,  and over time it became less and less of a priority. The two main characters looked quite different:

Jim's GiftFifteen or so years later, I have trouble working at a drafting table, so I now draw in my recliner. My visual acuity sucks, so I have to draw at a much bigger scale. Since I never finished drawing the faces, I need to do all of the faces again, so that they’ll be consistent. Pleasantly surprised by the two people who showed up, I now have to keep working to make the rest of the faces of the same quality… I’m unused to having to keep doing them over and over.

As a freelancer, with typically short deadlines, I rarely have the opportunity for a Do Over.  In all of the children’s books I’ve illustrated, the images went from first draft to finished drawing with very few changes. This doesn’t mean I hit my target every time;  I simply didn’t have time to correct the mistakes. Consequently, all of my children’s books [‘all’ sounds like a large number, doesn’t it?] have a couple bad images–incorrect perspective, inconsistent appearances, FLK [Funny Looking Kid]…ones I’d really like to have done over. But it wasn’t an option.

Since the current book has been ‘cooking’ for nearly 20 years, several Do Overs really won’t be a problem. As long as I don’t lose any other parts of my body in the near future…

61 years…where did it go?

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