Tissue Paper Tears

One of my father's paintings

My dad made this beautiful painting especially for me.


My Dad was an artist.  He painted with watercolors.  He took classes and worked diligently to develop his native talent.  He loved bright colors – purples and yellows and oranges.  He painted familiar landscapes and shadowed corners.  He tried non-representational art and other techniques at the urging of  his beloved art teacher of many years.  Painting was Daddy’s hobby.  By trade, he had been an education professor at University of North Texas.

My dad came down with what was at the time a very little known disease called mylodisplasia.  It’s very similar to leukemia in that his blood wasn’t manufacturing all the things it needed.  He wasn’t getting sufficient oxygen.  In a younger person, bone marrow transplants can be an effective cure and now there are new medicines that are on the market that seem to be helping people with this illness.  But back then – 6 and 7 years ago – there was nothing.   It took a long time to diagnose what the problem was and once they did, he deteriorated steadily over the course of a couple of years.

Daddy died at the end of August six years ago.  Thankfully, I made it home to Texas before he passed and was with him when he did.  I didn’t really get to talk to him, though, because he was unconscious until the very last moment.  I felt awkward talking to him as he lay so small and frail in bed.  So, I just talked to him about what I was going to do come fall with my son — home school.  I talked about wanting to interest my son in history – my father’s favorite subject .  He couldn’t answer, but I talked.

After Daddy’s death, when we returned to Tennessee, I was busy preparing for school.  I was nervous about the whole thing.  When I made the decision to home school, I knew I could rely on my dad for advice and ideas.  But now I had lost him.  He would never see me being a teacher. 

Watt Black's Last Painting

The last painting my dad, Watt Black, did. Notice the feet on four of them aren't completed.

I had brought home with me my dad’s wood art case.   Preparing for art classes, I filled the art case with tidbits for my son use to make collages.  I cut up tons of pieces of tissue paper in all colors – green, blue, red, pink, yellow, orange.  I tucked in pipe cleaners and feathers and googly eyes.  As it turned out, my son wasn’t all that interested in collage art.  As the year wore on, the wooden case got shoved on top of the bookcase and forgotten.

A few weeks after Daddy died, I had a dream.  I had wondered, like everyone else who looses someone close, if I would see or hear or somehow be graced with the presence of my dad, or his spirit or however you choose to call it.  Would he visit me from the other side? I don’t know if this dream was that kind of visit.  I don’t really know if I believe in that kind of visit.  But, at the time, it felt like my dad was trying to tell me something.    As I lay in bed drifting off to sleep, I felt a presence in the room above me and to the left.  It was hard to pull my head up from sleep, but I turned and looked in that direction.  I saw a floating figure.  Well, not really a figure as in a person.  It was more of an amorphous cloud.  The cloud held a large flat bowl.  It reached into the bowl and scooped something out and tossed it in my direction.  Normally a scaredy cat,  I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t.  The cloud tossed what appeared to be confetti that drifted down gently toward me.  That’s all I remember.  The next day I was glad that the dream had happened.  I felt like my dad was telling me everything was okay.  He wasn’t there to help me home school my son, but he was okay and wanted me to be okay too.

We got through the first year of home school just fine.   We kept on home schooling because it seemed the best thing to do, though I think my dad would have counseled against it.  A couple of years ago, I started making jewelry.  I slowly amassed a wad of necklaces and earrings and needed someplace to store them.  I thought of my dad’s old wood art case.  It was on top of a bookshelf and I’d completely forgotten about it.  I stood on tip-toe to pull it down, but the latch was open, so when I pulled, the contents of the box came spilling out.  Tons of small clips of tissue paper – a colorful, floating snow.  But, at the time it just aggravated me because it made a mess and because it just reminded me of all the preparations I’d made over the years for school projects that flopped. 

Fast forward a year.  I began making collage art.    It was the beginning of an addiction.   I never felt happier.   I opened my Etsy shop and began my new journey.

I have very much enjoyed swapping stories with the beautiful artists who are members of Melange Team Etsy.  Recently, some of them discussed their first experiences with collage as children.  That jogged my memory – the memory that I had filled that box with tissue paper for my son to use to make collages.  I remembered the dream of the floating confetti and how it felt like my dad was telling me everything would be okay.  It suddenly clicked.  Goosebump city. 

My dad never got to see me teach.  He never got to see me making art.  But, he was a fabulous teacher and a talented artist.  It feels quite special to me that I have grown into these things on my own.


4 thoughts on “Tissue Paper Tears

  1. Ruth, what a beautiful moving story about your dad and your relationship. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

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