Art Life

Months Like Missing Teeth

This weekend, a few months late, I finally completed all the art for my roleplaying game book, Ultraviolet Grasslands and the Black City. Or simply, UVG.

Today is Wednesday. Waterday in Korea. That this big project is nearly behind me has not yet percolated into my waking mind. It’s been more than two years since I began this journey, unknowing of where it would lead.

The last two months are like missing teeth.

I know those two months were there. I can feel the gaps. Summer’s gasp is fading into an unseasonably warm October. Seasonably warm, climate crisis considered.

I think I held it together pretty well, all things considered.

There were so many things I wanted to write over these last six months, but held off as all my energy was already allocated. Finish book. Maintain marriage. Finish art. Maintain friendships. Color art. Stay in touch with family back home.

I think I held it together pretty well, considering my father’s death.

There were so many arguments I wanted to finish with him over these last six years. So many things I wanted to change his mind on. But I held off as I decided it was better to come to terms with him as a man rather than the Father. Respecting the man, but disagreeing with his follies and mistakes.

For he was a fallible man. A good man in many ways, profoundly annoying in others. Capable of grand gestures and generosity and selfishness and terrified arrogance.

For he was but a man, but a special man to me. My father, the only one I could ever have. One whose idol I cast aside so that I could love and accept and respect the person behind.

I think I held it together pretty well, considering his views as he grew older.

I am happy I did not take to ranting against the man and his follies. His life was too short for that, and I regret the time spent in fruitless argument. I am happy I managed to respect him in the end, on his own terms, as a man. A man like me in some ways, unlike in many.

In the end, though he never was a man who understood art or roleplaying games, he was a man who understood achievement.

I said to him, “Dad, this book, it’s a big thing. It’s the start. It’s the first time I’ve achieved something this big.”

And he grasped how big it was.

A few weeks later I said to him, “Dad, I know we talked that I’d come visit in July, but this kickstarter, it’s a bigger project than I’d thought. I want to finish it properly, then spend some weeks with you, without other worries on my mind.”

And he agreed we’d postpone my visit.

Two weeks before I was to arrive back home, in Tolmin, he died on his morning walk, on his morning hill, on his way, talking with his friend, heart stopped, fell to the ground, bent his friend’s walking stick as he fell. Fell. Dead.

When last I saw him in the funeral home, his still lips still held a faint smile. He’d been laughing at the punchline of his own joke when his heart had stopped.

I don’t know if the joke was funny or not, but he thought it was.

His body was cold from the morgue, ready for its trip to the burner. The crematorium. I never thought that condensation on a cold body would sparkle like fine dew on a mountain meadow at sunrise, but there it was. He sparkled when last I saw him in the flesh.

And six days after his death, we scattered his ashes.

He had wanted to be scattered beneath the house linden tree. The house tree is twenty-or-thirty years old now, just a bit taller than the house. Planted by my father or my brother. Their stories disagree. Brought down from the old village as a sapling that had taken root in the wall of the Saint Lambert’s church lichyard.

As he had wanted, I cut away the turf at the foot of the tree. It was hard. The roots too close to the surface. A shovel too clumsy to do it well. Hand and trowel were the only way. I set a pile of loose soil and chunks of cut turf aside.

After we gathered and remembered him, I held the scattering urn, pulled the lever with three fingers, and the pale ash fell. There was more of it than I had expected. Small dunes formed. Little clouds puffed. The funeral service manager helped release the last of it.

We scattered loose soil upon the ash. Then we took the turf with our bare hands and placed it back around the tree, over the ash and soil, pressed it down.

I whispered to him, “I’ll finish the book now.”

Then I watered it gently every day for three weeks, to make sure the moss and grass grew, the roots recovered.

The funeral week had, without doubt, been the hardest week of my life. Those weeks that followed were some of the most annoying. The estate. The disagreements. The settling of affairs.

And I said goodbye to my father under his linden tree in front of the home house.

And a good friend drove me to the airport, and half a world away, and back into the relentless days of September. And to Korean classes in the mornings, Ultraviolet Grasslands art in the afternoons, homework in the evenings, more art on the weekends. It was a relentless month of time.

And now we’re done.

And now I can write again.

And it’s the same world as always, yet completely different. I’ve completed my biggest work yet. I’ve buried Dad’s ashes with my own hands.

And I am proud of it. And Dad would be too.

Lucijan Rejec
*May 1943 — †August 2019

March 2017 — October 2019

Adijo. A doppo.

10 replies on “Months Like Missing Teeth”

So Much respect to you Luka for this. I am swelling with emotions. <3 Much love my friend and fellow artist.

My heart aches for you, but it is a peaceful, beautiful sadness. It sounds like you perhaps outpaced the linden tree in its growth. Never allow that spirit in you to be cut down.

I am in awe at your tenacity in the face of such trials. Awe, and gratitude. I couldn’t be happier to have seen this come to pass, and the time waiting on our end was time well spent, as the quality of your work shows through. Thank you for sharing.

I think we all have it in us to stand through such trials, so long as we remember that we are just human, with human failings and limitations. Thank you for your comment, Jae.

The idea of him still smiling about the joke he told made me smile, too.

This is a beautiful text and the UVG is a beautiful book.

Thank you.

Hi Luka. I am very sorry to hear about your father. I remember when my father passed (also a heart attack) about a year later something popped into my head while I was doing work in his yard and I thought “I have to tell that to dad” before I recalled he’d been departed. Ha, I got sober and became a lawyer all after my dad had died. I guess for me losing one of these longest relationships had a profound way of kicking up how I inventoried spending my time. Well you’ll be in my thoughts of a different sort than I originally figured when I was just intending to check the status of UVG. Take it easy, you are a good person. ~Matt

Thank you, Matt. I’ll try to take it easy … after all, enjoying the days we have is part of living the best lives we can.

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