In the middle of December, in the middle of the night, we got a call from Iran. My husband's father had passed away. My husband was heartbroken. He had been hoping to see his father over the semester break, after his teaching duties were fulfilled, but Daddyjon passed away a few days before the semester ended.
He was a good father, in that he never stopped caring for his kids, being concerned for them, thinking they deserved every honor, and wishing them every worldly success.
Because we only saw him periodically, when he would come to the US for a two or three-month visit, our children and their cousins, all my father-in-law's grandchildren, did not really have the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with him. But he would hug the kids and fuss over them when he was here, especially over my oldest daughter. She was the first-born of his first-born, my husband, and Daddyjon himself was the first-born of his generation.
He treated me, his daughter-in-law, with respect and mild affection. I think he would have liked my husband to marry a beautiful Persian girl with a background of infinite intellectual and business success, but instead there was me. A country girl from Oklahoma, with short legs, thick glasses, and an introverted manner, and a little on the heavy side.
As the years went by, I think he began to respect me because I loved his son and tried to be a good wife and mother. I could cook some Persian foods with success. And then he had a soft spot for my children, the oldest because she was the first-born, and the youngest because she was a little blue-eyed blond-haired cherub when she was little, and because she was the baby out of all of the cousins.
As a tribute to him, I have started working on a watercolor portrait of my father-in-law. When I work on a portrait, I work from a photograph blown up on my laptop screen. The normal looking portrait becomes a mottled map of splotches and shadows when you blow it up on the screen, but somehow, as I paint what I am seeing, a human face emerges, little by little.
I have done a few portraits before, and I try to start with the eyes of the subject. I think if I get the eyes right, the rest of it doesn't matter so much, as clothes, hair, and skin texture changes through the years. But the eyes stay the same, and so with Daddyjon's portrait, it has been strange and yet it also has felt right, that as I paint his portrait, I feel his eyes on me.
This man, who I only knew well through the stories told in the family about him, because in person it was only courteous exchanges between us . . . I feel I have looked into his eyes more this past few weeks of painting him than I did in the 25 years my husband and I have been married. I see something there now that I missed before.
Always before, I felt when he looked at me, that I didn't measure up to the standard of Persian perfection, and so I would end the polite conversations as soon as I could, to go help in the kitchen or be with the children. I always felt judged before, but now, looking into his eyes in this portrait, I feel he is saying, "Thank you for taking good care of my son and my granddaughters. I see you now for who you are, not for who you aren't."
I hope that he can still see all of us, from wherever he is in his spiritual state. After I finish the portrait, I will have it framed and then hung on the wall, right beside the portrait I painted of the best man I have ever known, my husband.
The finished portrait - my husband loves it and I feel 100% at peace now with my father-in-law. Art has a way of opening our hearts and minds.
I am Kelly - a wife, mother, cook, gardener, sewist, and much more. Creativity is the gift that I have been blessed with, and it has been a river of blessings to me. A creative outlet is good for you, body and soul. This blog is about helping you find ways to fit more creativity into your life, to enrich your own life and that of others.