Achilles’ Heel, Everyone’s Got OneJune 2, 2017
My Achilles’ Heel, used to be the girls, and how quickly I could get them out of their crates (and with what tools) if there was an accident in the Bronco.
Now it’s clear that my Achilles’ Heel is Dick’s eyes.
Dick had cataract surgery almost a month ago. What should have been a quick recovery has instead been a long, drawn out process of coping with irritation, infection, and a whole lot of doctor’s visits.
I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday on Wednesday and actually told him I was scared. I can’t stand to see Dick in pain. I never talk to my dad about such things.
Initially after the operation I was ferrying Dick around. (He has recovered enough that he can see to drive, but he has to take long breaks when he doesn’t use his eyes at all.)
I would take Dick to his post op appointments. I think you can see from the above sketch how rattled by the whole experience I was. One could argue that my sketch of Dick was my warm up sketch, but I know that isn’t it. I couldn’t even bear to look at him I was so worried. (And I tend not to worry about medical things until they are “final.”)
After trying to focus on sketching Dick I turned my attention to someone else in the waiting room and I had absolutely no difficulty. The sketch at the right is accurate, crisp, clean, decisive.
I thought about this incident over the next several days, while I marveled at how mature, stoical, and just generally fantastic Dick is. If something like this were happening to me I would be complaining, grumbling, and throwing attitude at everyone within earshot.
He has just kept keeping on. And of course, taking frequent breaks to not use his eyes. I want to be like Dick when I grow up.
Then a couple doctor’s visits later I was sitting opposite Dick and I decided to sketch him again. My first attempt to sketch him is on the left of the second image in this post. The sketch seems amorphous, and vague. I couldn’t focus in on the proportions of his face.
But I had had time to think over my drawing experience from May 9th. I realized what was happening. When drawing you have to navigate a thin line between observing and care taking. You want the emotional connection (it’s the recognition of that connection that’s one of the reason I sketch), but you don’t want the sentimentality. And you don’t want to be stopped and brought out of the present moment by thinking of what isn’t, of what hasn’t happened.
I took a deep breath and shook it off. I can deal with gaping wounds, I’m not going to let eye problems bring me to my knees.
I started a new portrait in the same position. Dick would shift positions, but every few minutes his hand would come up and his head and hand would be in roughly the same position. His eyes were squinted shut because of the discomfort.
This time I forced myself to sketch Dick, just as he was. I used the same determination I’ve used to quiet my mind and sketch in other difficult moments, whether it was the last sketches I did of Dottie on the day she died, or the many emergency visits to the hospital for Dick’s parents. I focus on the present moment. My commitment to that moment is what’s important.
I think it’s vital, when you have a drawing habit, to know the forces that impinge on it. It’s also fundamental to know that you can push forward in any difficult or unpleasant situation. It’s critical that you do push forward and draw anyway because drawing keeps you in the present moment.
It’s imperative that you look at everything. It’s necessary you really see what’s before you—because then you can deal with the reality.