That Last Surrogate Father Fades
As I write this late Wednesday night I can see a moth fluttering outside the window behind my monitor. I know it is getting cold and that the insect is in the last throws of its life cycle.
If anything it reinforces what I am about to write.
In my life I had many surrogate fathers. Besides my father there were all the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edward’s High School who nurtured me, educated me and helped me become a man. Just a couple of years ago the last one, my very dearest Brother Edwin Reggio died in Indiana.
There was Captain USN Onofrio Salvia who in Buenos Aires in the middle 60s taught me that rebellion at my age and in the Argentine Navy was silly and fruitless. “Become and educated man and then attempt to change those institutions (he meant military ones like the ones he represented) you abhor.”
It was Raúl Guerrero Montemayor in Mexico City who gave me a job and and the beginnings of a profession when I thought I had nowhere to go. It was Raúl who helped me meet my Rosemary.
And here in Vancouver at the end of the 20th Century it was Argentine painter Juan Manuel Sánchez and a Jewish/American architect, veteran of the Battle of the Ardennes Forest, Abraham Rogatnick ,who enriched my life with art and liberalism. An appreciation of the female form that was free of prejudice, sexism and political correctness was a further contribution by Sánchez who placed in my hands a Chilean translation of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and told me, “Leélo.”
All of my surrogates are now dead except for Juan Manuel Sánchez who like that fluttering moth is fading and has asked his doctors (in a rare moment of lucidity) in his Buenos Aires hospital bed to pull the plug.
I brought down from my piano room one of the last works of art that Sánchez ever finished. It was on April 24 of this year, in Buenos Aires that I placed in his hands a piece of cardboard that had a silver finish on one side. He looked at me quizzically. “What am I to do with this?” I told him he had to draw me one of his women. One of his women that he was working towards that eventual solution that would make the final work (one he will never achieve now) that of the Essence of Woman, as in a Platonic Essence. He intimated to me once that he was going to resolve woman to a dot or a line on a canvas.
He understood. He then asked me on what surface he was to draw. I only said, “da Vinci.” He knew exactly what I was talking about, Ginevra de’ Benci [obverse] c. 1474/1478. The painting hangs in the middle of a room at the National Gallery in Washington. It has two sides.
He handed me the work which he did in my presence on April 26 (I cannot understand why he may have thought that we were in another century because of the 916). I had it framed in Vancouver and because it has a picture on each side the nicely framed piece (Magnum Frames) I lean against the wall on a bookshelf.
I grieve already of a life that is reaching that asymptote that always with we humans does reach its axis before infinity.
Perhaps at that more (less?) than infinitesimal point between one side and the other my last surrogate father will prepare me for my own.
The Death of the Moth — Virginia Woolf
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.