Imagine living without the internet, television, or electricity. It’s hard, right? My dad, Ed McCartan, grew up in such a place; A farm located miles away from the closest town, Lake Five, Wisconsin. He went to school in the classic one-room school house and graduated, the only one in his class. Although he is quick with a smile and a joke, it’s possible his shy manner came from this isolation. Somewhere along the line, he discovered art. He bought a motorcycle and commuted to Milwaukee to attend the Layton School of Art.
Most people have nine to five jobs. But some who are lucky enough to have found their passion, never punch out. They use their creative outlet to express themselves during their free time too. My dad is one of those lucky people.
He was one of the original Mad Men and worked in advertising for decades. Somehow, he never burned out. Instead, he sketched at night while we watched TV and then painted watercolors, oils and acrylics on the weekends.
My sister, brother and I often drew alongside him. Crayons were our chosen media. There was something about a new box of crayons. The colors. The smell.
Some of my fondest memories are of my dad painting on location during camping trips or while picnicking. All of his work has chronicled events from his life much like photographs. The difference? He captured the energy or the emotion of all of those memories in the use of color and expression on canvas or paper.
My dad and I share a love of art. Many of you know I was a medical illustrator. When I found my passion in writing, I thought he may not relate. Instead, he listens intently when describing my ideas for books or screenplays. He still gives me advice and encouragement.
After retiring, he and my mom settled into a routine. They would enjoy a leisurely breakfast which always included my mom’s homemade bread. Then he would draw at a table in their living room, only taking a short break to eat an apple for lunch. He would quit when one of my mom’s gourmet dinners was ready.
Last year, my mom had many of his pieces framed and hung. Their house soon resembled an art gallery. My reserved dad, loved it. He enjoyed pointing out certain paintings and would tell the story behind each one.
My dad has never been a whiner, a complainer, or a crepe-hanger, a term my mom would use. He must have endured knee pain for years without telling anyone.
This spring, he relocated to the nursing home. I worried he would be disoriented or depressed. It didn’t take long before he adapted to a similar schedule to the one he had at home, but with the added bonus of dinner for lunch complete with dessert. He’s all about dessert.
At eighty-nine years old, he still enjoys his passion. Instead of painting, he draws. Instead of creating art on location, he works from books, and photographs from his family Bible. My mom visits every day. She hasn’t been able to keep up with the volumes of work he has produced. Instead of framing all of them, she plans to fill albums with his work.
A lot has changed since those days on the farm. Now he is surrounded by many caretakers and people who love him. But his passion has remained a constant.
In July, hospice is planning his first retrospective art show. I’m not sure they’ll be able to rent enough easels. No matter. My dad will enjoy pointing out particular paintings to talk about. The next day he will return to his drawing board to create something new. Something that will express himself. He’ll spend his time drawing because it’s his passion.
Happy Father’s Day, dad!
My dad passed in October 2015, but I’m thinking of him today!
Do you have a passion or a hobby?