Posts Tagged ‘Ed Reep’

#1 Daughter: Longevity and Loss


2013
03.28

Photo by Felix Adamo

#1 daughter.  Susan. That’s how I signed cards to my parents.  It was just a fun thing because I was the first-born, a way to bring some levity to the same old “Love, Susan.”  Now both my parents are dead and #1 daughter takes on a new meaning because a new word takes its place – the M word.  Matriarch.  #1 in birth order. That word has a forbidding sound.  Kind of like the name Bertha, which always intimidated me.

But let’s back up a bit.  I’m 66.  I feel I may be a tad unusual to have had both my parents so long; Mom living until 87 and Dad until 94.  The last 10 years have been a rocky journey demanding a great deal of attention from us kids as Mom and Dad navigated hospitalizations, and then increasing dementia with Mom, while continuing to live independently.  “Independently” was a misnomer but we enabled them to believe it was so because we knew there were no options: they were not going anywhere or having anyone in.  Dad knew, however.  But he was a master of self-deception, not recognizing what he knew to be true.  Yet even that isn’t true, because on a deeper level he knew what he was doing and chose to ignore it.  He was a master of levels.

Mom died just in time.  She was on the verge of major cognitive changes and neither she nor Dad would have handled them well.  But losing her broke Dad’s heart.  It broke all our hearts, but Dad’s irreparably.  He showed so much courage in tackling life and trying to move forward but the struggle was brutal.  I found myself thinking it was time for him to die and wondering how it would come to pass.

And then he planted a rose bush on the coldest day of the winter.  My sister Janine, who was visiting from Alaska, and I were on an adventure – a day trip to Boron and having a wonderful time.

Janine in Boron

Dad had his own unexpected adventure.  We got a phone call from my housekeeper Connie who had been cleaning Dad’s house too – had we seen her glasses?  She had left them at Dad’s house, we said.  And the next thing we knew Connie was at Home Depot with Dad buying a rose bush.  What?  Janine and I were ecstatic!  Maybe this would be our answer – maybe Connie could take care of Dad and that would give a spark to his life!

Before we could even get to the idea we heard that Connie was too much woman for Dad – too “take charge.”  But planting the rose bush on that very cold day almost did him in, and he told us it was time for him to move to a retirement home.  We were so excited!  We had such high hopes for him to have two or three or who knows? even more good years where he would meet people, have more to do, more to eat.  His new apartment was wonderful and he was so happy and excited.  And he only got eight days and he died.

Photo by Felix Adamo

It breaks my heart.  I was not ready.  None of us were.  It’s been a month and I’m still not ready. We wanted Dad to have more.  That’s what we wanted.  And Dad wanted it for us – he was making the very best of what he had but truly, he hadn’t had a happy day since mom died, and he was ready.  It’s not about us.  He lived a remarkable life and he died a remarkable death and that is the end of his life on earth.

My dad, Edward Reep the artist in his studio in the mid-60s

It’s hard to believe he is gone.  And after 27 years in Bakersfield, there will be no more trips out to the house on Crowningshield Drive.  I won’t be driving out two to three times a week and calling every other day or more.  When the phone rings at 7:00 a.m. I won’t be cursing the fact that I’ve been woken up and it won’t be my dad.  Just like that, the pattern breaks.

And I contemplate a new role.  Matriarch.  Does that mean anything nowadays?  My father took his role as patriarch quite seriously.  I’m not sure he actually did anything but he felt a responsibility.  We aren’t a tribal society and we don’t look to the tribal elder for advice or approval or special dispensation for anything and I am not sure I’d want to be giving it anyhow.  But I am the female head of the family and the oldest family member, male or female.  I’d like to think I acquitted myself well in the role of daughter – not perfectly, but well – and now there’s a new role to play.

What family am I head of?  My own little (or not so little) family?  My extended family – sisters, brother, nieces and nephew?  Their spouses?  Cousins? It’s probably a meaningless contemplation but interesting nonetheless as we think about the structure of family and how families are coming back together as finances shrink.  How the wagons are circling and kids are gathering around the campfire again instead of scattering to the four winds.  Or is that the wild winds and the four corners of the earth?

I guess it will sort itself out, probably by disappearing completely as anything to think about at all.  A meaningless contemplation.  I just won’t be #1 daughter any more because there won’t be any more cards to sign.  My role as a daughter is over.  Now it’s part of history.  It’s an overwhelming thought, that the role of daughter is over.  I don’t want to give it up.

Maybe we’re never ready.  We just move on.  But I’ll be all right.  And as Dad said the night before he died, “I’ll be all right.”  I love you, Dad.

Saving a life in World War II: an unexpected tale over 50 years later.


2011
12.13

I have not written a post for over four months.  Why? I had nothing to say.  But now I do because I received an amazing email yesterday from someone named Ben Clark.  If I didn’t have a blog, he would not have found me on the internet, and I would not have received his account of this amazing story from World War II involving both of our fathers.

I have permission to share his email.  The video he refers to is this:

The man he refers to is my father, Edward Reep.

And my father tells the story also in a book that he wrote:

Here it goes.

Susan I must start by telling you about my father. His name was Martin Clark.  My father was a boxer as well as a soldier.  He was a world class fighter and was actually promoted to fight Joe Louis the Brown Bomber…

He (Martin Clark) would laugh when telling his stories He told us many stories over and over again, and my friends would come to our house and listen again and again to his telling of his days in the war.  I remember these stories as if they happened to me.

One of his stories was the account of how he was injured at Anzio Beach.  He told us all hell broke loose and every one was scrambling for fox holes.  He was hit in the leg and later discovered that he (his leg) was almost amputated by shrapnel.  His account was as he was laying there a jeep drove up and someone carried him to the back of the jeep.  During that moment he was also shot in the leg.  As the jeep drove down the beach they hit a bump  in the road and one of the men stated that he thought my father was dead.  My dad stated, “The hell I am.  I am not dead.”

56 years later I was nursing a neck injury.  It was Sunday and I could not find my remote; then on PBS came a video about an artist who sketched the war (They Drew Fire).  As I watched I learned of your father who in the beginning tells of the story about a group of men who were in a theater tent that was hit by a mortar.  He stated that he hid  through the night and the next morning felt ashamed and that he was a coward.  He also stated that from that point on he would seek to redeem himself by going to the frontlines.

Now the tape moves to Anzio Beach and as I listened I thought that it would be interesting to hear another perspective about the place where my father almost died.   Your dad said the same things, that all of a sudden all hell broke loose. Then your dad stated, “Then I saw this poor son of a gun with his leg nearly blown off.”   So against his captain’s orders, he left his fox hole and went to the aid of this soldier, not caring for his own safety.  He assisted a medic in getting the soldier to the jeep, and as they drove down the road your dad said they hit a bump in the road and he said that he told the driver he thought the soldier was dead. At that moment the soldier stuck his head up and said, “The hell I am. I am not dead..”

At that moment I was coming out of my recliner, I could not believe what I was hearing… I wrote down the number and ordered the video tape.  I later watched it and discovered your dads phone number via the internet. I finally summoned the courage and called him.  When he answered the phone I told him my name and that I watched his video on PBS. His first words to me were, “I was such a damn coward”…

OH NO, I told him respectfully that I believed that the man he risked his life to save by leaving the fox hole was my father.  I described how he would have looked at the time and your dad agreed it sounded exactly like him. I explained that there was no way he was a coward in my book, and that he was a brave man.  I could tell your dad was choking up a bit so I promised to write him a letter.

 I went on to write you father a letter explaining that because of his bravery my father made it home to his wife for 47 more years of adoring marriage, and that he had four more sons after that injury, of whom I am the youngest of the five.  My oldest brother was a cadet at West Point, my next brother served in the Green Berets, My third brother was in the U.S. Navy, and my other brother and I are family men.  All of us have college degrees and two have masters.  My father up until 2003 lived in Merritt Island, and he lived to see his great grand children.

I attribute the single fact of my existence to one lion-hearted, selfless man:  your father.  I reported this coincidental sighting of the video to a friend/reporter who followed up with a story.  But your dad, like most men of that period, did not say much.

All I can tell you is Captain Ed Reep is my hero. He not only saved my dad’s life but his actions set in motion the life of a family tree.  Surely God was directing your father’s steps that cold January day in Italy.

As for you mom, my heart goes out to you; my father suffered dementia also, and I was vigilant by his bedside the evening he entered into the Kingdom of heaven.

Susan if your father is still alive, please tell him that I think about him every day and that I thank the Lord for him. I just wanted to reach out to you as your dad has been on my heart for many years.  As I searched for him I came across your website.  It gives me great pleasure to share this story with you.

I hope you have a very peaceful and joyous Christmas season.

Peace,

Ben Clark

What a gift Ben gave me with this email.  He gave a gift to my dad also, who is 93 and sill living independently (more or less).  I printed the email and took it to him.  When he got to the part about Martin Clark enjoying 47 more years of marriage and having five sons, Dad was overcome.    He said that maybe he had done something worthwhile in his life.

And Ben found me because of my web page.  That in itself is reason to continue my blog.  Being “found” can lead to unexpected treasures.  I’ll try to write another post before four more months have passed.  Maybe I’ll find my voice again.

#best09 Dec. 6 – Conference or Workshop that was Great? It was a Conference of One, a Workshop of Self, and a Community of Women


2009
12.06


I went to no formal workshops and no formal conferences.  I’m retired and there was a recession going on.  (Had I been able to, I would’ve taken a National Geographic photo trip to New Mexico.) This year, 2009, was more about teaching myself than getting outside help.  Specifically, art.  Photography.  I realized I know more about photography than I thought I did.

That’s how knowledge is sometimes.  It sneaks up on you.  You do something for years and then all of a sudden, you realize you’ve learned something.  Writing the eHows and some articles for ezines was like a Conference of One – I found out what I know.  I’ve sold photos, I’ve exhibited photos, I can write about photos, yet I have trouble calling myself a photographer.  I’ve sold photo collages, I’ve had collages accepted into museum shows, had my own show at Metro Galleries, and been part of several others.  But I have a hard time calling myself an artist.

The photographer problem comes from the fact that even though I know the most important attribute of a photograph is having a good eye because cameras, even point-and-shoots do such a good job, I feel I ought to be more technically informed.  But numbers scare me.  Yes, it’s true, I have to admit it.  I start learning about f-stops and ISO and speedlite flashes and proportions and distances and my mind stops.  It might be self-induced, but I do think I am mathematically-challenged (actually, I know I am – if I hadn’t had an extremely high SAT score in language, I might not have gotten into college based on the math score).

I’ve already set a goal for next year and it’s to finally learn the technical stuff about photography.  It might be a private workshop – me and someone to tutor me.  I can’t do it in a class or a group because I’d need remediation right away! But I can and will do this.  Even though it terrifies me. Then maybe I can call myself a photographer without flinching.  I know I’m pretty good, I know I can exhibit and sell, but I want to feel more complete.

My Workshop of Self was art.  Something took possession of me.  I had NEVER used paint outside of childhood, except for paining some metal chairs. ( You can see how successful that was in terms of having the paint land where it was supposed to.  Actually, the link to my story has a photo which doesn’t look too bad – it’s reading the story where the incompetence is revealed.)  But I so longed to do something with a canvas!  I bought small canvases, acrylic paints and a few brushes and went for background.  I used some vintage fruit labels as collage material and wow! I actually did something that was accepted into a juried show!

Metropolitan

Then I did another one.

rayo

These were even used as the show poster and I won some money!  My dad said I could call myself an artist -that my stuff was good.  He knows.  I encourage you to click on the link because he’s a pretty famous and amazing guy in the art world.  Anyway, my dad said my work was good even though I broke all the rules.  Not hard to break rules you don’t know.

So in my Workshop of Self I learned, I produced, I had a million ideas, and again, a lack of technical knowledge.  That doesn’t bother me as much as with photography though.  Because I’ve been learning from a community of artists in Bakersfield – BECA (Bakersfield Emerging Contemporary Artists).  These women are astounding in their acceptance and encouragement, their drive and passion.  I also have been learning from people all over the United States, the world really, in last month’s Art Every Day Challenge. I think it was only, or almost only, women who participated oddly enough.  It’s open to anyone.  These women were also encouraging and through their posts I learned so much about technique and materials and I got inspiration.

Now I want to go crazy and try all kinds of art forms.  I am going to do something with the head gasket from a Model A Ford my husband is restoring for this month’s Creative Every Day challenge of using recycled materials.  I have an art journal going.  I’m trying to actually paint something.  I painted a pear.  Poorly, but it’s a start.

So I take it back that I didn’t attend any workshops or conferences that wowed me.  Having written this, I realize I attended the best workshop of all – that of learning from supportive, talented people everywhere.  Wow.  The power of the Internet.  The power of Jen Raven who got me involved in BECA and Burn the Witch.  Me and all the enthusiastic young people who luckily don’t know their limitations, and because of that, they are going to exceed them.  I think that’ll be a goal of mine for 2010 – exceed my limitations by taking part in a workshop of willing teachers and participants all over the web.

For that I have to thank Gwen Bell for this Best of 09 Challenge – you can link to it from the button on the sidebar.  Because without this, I wouldn’t have discovered what I just wrote!