Anela en Rouge

art, essay, non-fiction, video No Comments »

2013 ~ Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! I’m so excited to share with you all this beautiful short film (18 minutes), Anela en Rouge, that is the story of me coming full circle in recovering from the death of my mother, and how my mother promises to stay in contact with me after death. The story speaks to all mothers and daughters. Cara Myers is the producer of the film. Anthony Ladesich (also my brother) is the director of photography. Several film festivals selected and showed the film. I promise you will love Anela en Rouge. Beginning today the film is open to the public! Please share with all you know. (to all my mother’s children and grandchildren, too)

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Family Again

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

2013 ~ About two years after my father died, my mother started dating my second Dad (never did like the ring of “step”—Cinderella put the curse of horror on that word).

The notion of our family returning to wholeness by having a father back in the home delighted me. I could quit answering the question of my father’s whereabouts; I could quit seeing the pained looks on people’s faces when I told them he had died; I’d still have a future as a father’s daughter.

After a year of dating, my dad-to-be, my mother and the four of us kids sat in the back seat of a Ford Country Squire station wagon with the faux wooden sides waiting at the railroad tracks for the train to pass. My nine year old brother, counted the train cars, my seven year old sister and I sang Herman’s Hermits’ song “Mrs. Brown You’ve got a Lovely Daughter” at the tops of our lungs to drown out my three year old sister’s repetitious “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Suddenly, my dad-to-be turned to us in the back seat and said, “I’d like everyone’s attention.”

He wasn’t yelling or anything, but we were totally unaccustomed to him making any group statements. My mother even looked surprised. He turned to my mother, held up a small box, opened it and held out a ring toward all of us.

“Barbara, I want to know if you and the kids will have me?”

My mother looked at us in the back seat and said, “Well? Vince wants to marry us. What do you say?”

We’d just received the biggest gift ever. We all started screaming “yes” and watched my dad-to-be kiss my mother. “Gross!” we yelled and we were happy.

Gratitude for my second Dad

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By Chance

art, non-fiction, poetry 2 Comments »

This poem tells the true story of my father and my brother….and how one of my father’s paintings (he was a watercolor artist) found its way back to our family many years after my father’s death.

By Chance

This time
down in the basement
not far from the washer and dryer,
stacks of boxed Christmas ornaments,
a table filled with fly tying materials,
and shelves of things forgotten,
the son’s father allowed him to watch
and listen. The boy was seven.
He sat high near the work table,
next to where his father stood
as he swathed the rough textured Fabriano
with pale colors of moving water.
This will be the ocean, he’d said. Then he began
his vibrato whistle, like that of a wood-wind solo.
Pensieroso.

He whistled as the sable bristles,
an extension of his own long fingers,
dipped and twisted into the swirls
of thick titanium white, aquamarine,
emerald green, and ultramarine blue
on his pallet.
The son’s eyes followed
the brush’s movements while
his father created
an ethereal seascape for someone
who did not yet know
that by chance he’d see it,
have it speak to him,
make an offer
and carry it into his home—
a gift.

Azure liquid leaked from a sponge
his father wrung. He blotted in shadows
from the ocean up to the edge
of the masking taped paper
and then wisped thin lines of black
out lining the upper part of the indigo
and violet shadows
and the son watched
the dark run
into clouds.

Several more strokes
and a wooden weathered boat
tethered to a mooring buoy
emerged on the paper. Now he whistled
a shanty, as he worked
the impression of the rig.
A burnt sienna mast appeared and rose
into the overcast sky,
and then a loosely furled sail.
The father knew then what the son did not
and carefully drew
the brush from left to right,
to the stern. The father stirred
the brush in an old
peanut butter jar
full of blue-green water, whipped
moisture from it, set it down. He stepped away,
reached for an angular bowled pipe,
tapped tobacco, lit a match
drew in the smoke. The line of his
back tilted away
from the art and he ran
the pipe’s mouth piece across
his lips. He returned the pipe to its rest
and chose a finer brush, held it and waved
it like a conductor’s wand
through the air. He punctuated
the motion into white,
then black, then to the paper. This is a gull,
he said, and dipped again into the black
for the bird’s eye. The vibrato
in his whistle began
once more as a stiffer brush met
with a soft, washed-out yellow. Yellow bled out and away
from the sea bird, that stretched his feet
to light atop the mast.
In staccato fashion the brush dabbed in barnacles,
moss, sea foam, rippled reflections.
It’s magic, the son said.
Spirit, said the father.
Art is from God.

* * * * *

Thirty-three summers after
his father sold the painting
thirty-three summers after
his father died,
the son stood inside the frame
shop. Non-glare glass shards, soft
leaded pencils, gray gum
erasers, a rainbow
of matting scraps, metal squares,
velvety polishing cloths, Exacto knives,
moulding lengths, coils of wire, minute
brads, and powdery sawdust surrounded him.

Bells rang at the door—
unoiled hinges echoed its opening. A small
round, older man entered,
and in both hands he carried a large
paper wrapped painting.
Good morning, the son said.
The man placed the painting
on the counter, tore away the paper. It
means a great deal to me, the man said as he turned
it toward the son. Someone I loved
gave this to me. The man’s eyes
didn’t look away
from the art.
The son’s eyes focused
on a sea gull,
the yellow bleeding out and away
from it. The son ran
his hand down the glass
as though scanning prose and
rested his forefinger to the right
of the artist’s signature.
This is my father’s
work, said the son.
I sat next to him when he painted it. The man’s
eyes met with the son’s. He used to whistle,
said the son.

The man left the painting
for a new frame. The son
spoke to his mother, his sisters.
Come see, he said. The mother
set her hand near the name. The sisters
touched the frame.
The son stood back and realized
the sea. It is the ocean.
He watched and listened.

Two weeks passed and the son
called the man. I finished the frame,
said the son. The bells rang
at the door—the hinges now oiled
made no sound. The man stood back from
the painting, the ocean, the boat, the gull.
Your father would be happy, he said. The man
opened a manila envelope and handed the son
papers. This is a copy
of my will. The painting
will return to you one day. The son
did not meet eyes
with the man. Black type bled
through the yellow
highlighter—the son and the father’s name. The son
shook the man’s hand
and nodded. The son did not hear the bells
as the man closed
the door behind him.

Three days later the man
appeared again, carrying
a large paper wrapped painting.
This painting
belongs with you, the man said.
No need to wait
until I die.

Nannette Rogers Kennedy
November 17, 2002

This is the painting the man returned to my brother ~ it hangs in our home.

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Deeper into the Forest

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

forest pathI experienced death for the first time in my life when I was eight years old, the death of my father. My father had what now is considered a fairly curable cancer. In 1956 when my mother was six months pregnant with me, the doctors told my father he had six months to live. He clearly wasn’t ready when the doctors said he would be.

Thankfully, both of my parents were two very spiritually enlightened individuals. My mother didn’t refrain from the truth about my father’s situation as I grew. What my mother did, something for which I will be forever grateful was ingrain in me that death was no less miraculous of an event than birth.

My father was going to a marvelous place where he’d see the face of God, his grandparents and his parents. My mother assured me (and my three siblings ages 6, 4, and 18 months) that when the time came my father would board a ship and while those of us on this shore would wave good bye for now and say “There he goes!” that those on the receiving shore would wave hello and say “Here he comes!” This painted a non-fearful picture of a journey. This is not to say I wasn’t profoundly saddened, but the brush strokes my mother used made death another chapter and not the end.

My mother, half Irish half Scottish, and my father, half Italian and half Scot/Irish both came from strong Catholic backgrounds and especially for Catholics at this time period they were very open minded. Two months before my father’s death, on Halloween, my 6 year-old brother and I visited my father in the hospital. During this visit, nurses rushed my brother and me from the room. What we didn’t know for a few days is that my father’s heart had stopped. As many who have experienced near death, my father’s experience was fairly typical. It was a place of intense love and comfort, but for four young children, he told us that where he was going you could eat hotdogs for breakfast, fish all day, swing on a tire in the moonlight, ask God anything you wanted, and best of all my father’s soul would watch over us all always.

Roland RogersA few nights before my father died, my mother sat in the hospital in a sitting room adjoined to the room where my father slept. My father’s voice in conversation distracted my mother. She rose from her chair and stood in the door way of the dimly lit room. My mother felt certain that someone else was in the room with my father. He spoke in answer to someone my mother could not see. His eyes followed the unseen presence around the room. It became clear at one point that the presence was standing right next to my father’s bed. My father held out his arms and cradled something which my mother could not see. Later my father explained to my mother that St. Anthony of Padua had visited him. He carried the Christ child. They spoke of many things, and during their conversation, St. Anthony asked my father if he’d like to hold the Christ child. My father accepted the invitation. While my father held the Christ child, St. Anthony told my father, that very soon he would begin a new journey, the pain would cease, and his family would be all right no matter what.

The morning after my father died, my mother shared this story and others in a way that cemented ourmom2004 universal view that life is eternal. Although my mother remarried a wonderful man several years later, and we were therefore blessed with a second father, and two more siblings, my mother often told me that my father was with her always. She told me she regularly dreamed that she would stand in a forest calling to him. He would come from behind a tree and embrace her. She would tell him she loved him and he would tell her that when she was ready, he would be waiting near that tree in the forest.

Five years ago today my mother walked deeper into the forest holding the hand of my father.

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