When life becomes a cosmic joke, I’m ready for the punchline.
It’s more than traumatic when someone healthy dies moments after you speak with them. My mind has been flooded with what ifs and the disbelief that anyone could sit down and pass away from a clot. I’m still in shock after almost three weeks.
So what’s the joke?
My husband, Danny, and I returned home to regroup before the funeral. We stepped inside and a steady dripping sound greeted us. Part of the ceiling lay on the floor of the guest bedroom. Water collected in pools on the hickory floors around it.
Remember my demon washing machine story?
This is the guest bedroom on the first floor under the laundry room.
In a panic, I ran upstairs to the laundry room. Water poured from the cold faucet. Why now? I checked those faucets three times a day for five weeks and they had never shed a drop.
The drain under the washer remained dry. Water ran inside the wall and had collected in the ceiling, which caved in. Then it traveled through the floor to our unfinished basement below.
I ran down the steps. Water sprinkled our kid’s apartment furniture and inconsequential storage containers. My eyes fell on a large rectangular box. It had leaned against the wall since we moved in seventeen years ago. It contained some of my artwork.
“Are you effing kidding me?” I shouted and shook my head. I didn’t need this while planning for my brother’s funeral.
Then I rushed back upstairs, stood in the guest bedroom doorway and laughed.
“When it rains it pours,” I said.
I’m not sure where the pun came from, but in that moment, I was over it. I didn’t care anymore. Life has it’s way of reminding us that it goes on no matter what we’ve been through.
This ridiculous cosmic joke had a huge fringe benefit.
My husband, Danny, called 24/7 Restoration and they arrived in a flurry of able-bodied men. They emptied the guest bedroom as the plumber arrived. Soon a steady thrum of dryers replaced the steady drip.
I stepped back downstairs to check on my artwork. They had cleared the furniture and cleaned up the floor along the wall. Now, drying fans hummed in the empty space.
My artwork lay in its box on top of a table. Opening it, I flipped through portraits, fashion and sports illustrations drawn as advertisements for businesses or to build a portfolio. I had forgotten. It was like a message from beyond from my dad and brother.
Long ago, I had given up too easily.
After graduating with a BS in Art from UW-Madison, I found a top advertising agency in Milwaukee and landed an interview through my artistic dad’s connections. I would walk right into my dream job, right?
I remember sitting in a plush office with a view of the city. The president of the company sat at his desk across from me. “Do you have experience in pasteup and layout?”
“No.” I sunk down in my seat.
“Why did you get a four-year degree from the University of Wisconsin when Madison Area Technical College would have taught you these skills in two?”
I didn’t have an answer.
“Our illustrators work their way up from graphic design. I would suggest going back to school.”
Instead, I returned to Madison and continued to work retail. I added a few hours a week as a botanical illustrator and searched for free-lance jobs. This included a day traveling to the Apparel Mart in Chicago where I drew purses then hitchhiked a ride back to Madison in a most peculiar way. I happened to be at work in Botany when I got a call from the VA Hospital, looking for a medical illustrator. Ironically, that’s where I learned pasteup and layout. The rest is history.
A couple of years ago, my screenwriting partner, Erik Wolter, suggested I write a graphic novel. Comic cons are my thing, but I didn’t think I could pull off that kind of illustration. Then I found this.
Yeah, I know. I illustrated a few T-shirts for a party back in college. It was a tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and movies like The Warrior. Very punk attire was required. As we used to say in the ’80’s, “The party was too much fun!”
Discovery and wonder are pulling me from the depths of grief. No watery pun intended. This was my first step in recovery. There will be more.
Thank you, cosmic joke from beyond.
Have you ever come home from a trip to discover something like this? Do you save your creative projects?
Click for my story about trying to save my brother.
For more wild stories, click here. It’s always a Wild Ride, believe me.