Sunday, 30 March 2008

Big Fish

I watched a movie today called Big Fish. Chicky Babe Said it was a comedy. It was a movie about a young man trying to understand his father who always stretched the truth, every tale of his life was mythologized. The young man who was about to become a father himself was frustrated with his father and had not spoken to him for several years. He returns home when his father is dying and sets about trying to find the truth in amongst the tall tales. The ending got me. I wept and wept. My friend Tim called to say hi and I could not speak to him on the phone, he thought something was really awry, until I managed to make him understand that I had just watched a DVD and it had made me cry.

I don't truly know what it was that elicited such a response. I was touched by the way the young man spoke to his father at the end of the story.... I'm sorry if you haven't seen it I'm going to ruin the ending, so don't read anymore if you intend to watch it now.

The way he finally came to understand and recognize his father and helped him to die as he had lived with a great story to end his life. I felt for the young man because as he told the story he was narrating his father's death. I felt a little envious at the connection the seemed to have come to in the end. At the funeral of the father in the story we see a lot of the characters that peppered the tall stories he told his son. The son was called on to question his beliefs about his father and it was moving to see how this one man had touched the lives of so many others.

In some respects it reminded me of my own father who was in my eyes larger than life and in some respects legendary. I still miss him enormously. In the few months before he died I got to know him quite well, he was not at work because of stress and I was pregnant with Bantam Boy ( he was so looking forward to becoming a grandfather ). He spent a bit of time helping me fix up the place that my husband and I had just bought, so we got the chance to spend much time together, it was more him coming to know me really - two of his closest friends told me later that he had told them he had misunderstood me and that I was not the person he thought I was he had underestimated me. He thought that I was interested in material things. He thought I was more like my mother but I was more like him than he'd known.

At my dads funeral and many many times after people have referred to my father and how he touched their lives, he was instrumental in encouraging and mentoring several people in their artistic careers. He worked with the children from Rocky Bay, inventing special easels to help them paint more easily with their mouths. (This is a point I will return to later) Last year I was at an exhibition of children's art work, the special guest artist who had been invited to open the exhibition was one of dad's students he made reference to dad in his speech as he spoke he saw me in the crowd and pointed out the connection. I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with sadness. You know the little chin wobble starts and you bite the inside of your mouth to distract you from the emotion you are feeling, to no avail. He felt terrible I felt embarrassed! It is nice to hear nice things said about your dad but I was not prepared for it and had been in a low place at the time. I was not teaching art at that point and I had stopped seeing someone who was an artist and kept me connected with that world, I had let my own work take a back seat and felt a sense of self disappointment.

Now for the confession, I also felt jealousy and resentment. My father had encouraged and mentored these other people yet he had actively discouraged me. I struggle with this constantly and I know I should let it go. I felt I was not good enough and that is why he didn't encourage me. (I know it is really the fear of the uncertainty and financial difficulty it would entail to follow that life path, and his own demons of self doubt that he struggled with that led him to actually ban me from attending art school when I was 19) but I felt it was because I was no good, or rather not good enough, that I was a disappointment. I suppose that is why the fact he had told his friends that he had seriously misjudged me was a great thing to know, I wish he could have told me himself.

(Ummm...... maybe that is why I had such a big reaction.)

Having said all this, I do love teaching and it is a big part of who I am, ( although if I could go back and give my 18 year old self some advice, I'd say study art then do 1 year extra to become a teacher!) . Being a teacher has given me a very stable financial base and has meant I can raise my kids on my own with my contact working hours and holidays that fitted with theirs. It enabled me to buy a house and give both them and myself a sense of stability and permanence after the separation. And importantly has enabled me to put myself in a position to get them into the school that is the best one for them.

After all they are my life's work, my most important creative endeavor. I am not too old and they are nearly fully grown and then there is no reason why I can't go back and study art again. Maybe I'll go back to art school with Bantam Boy, I'm sure he'd love that, having his mum along.

I loved art school! I went to Claremont Fine Art School the year after I left my marriage. The kids were 2 and 3 and a half! I loved that year, I felt truly at home and hopeful.
I must remember to truly make time for art in my life.

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