Wednesday, January 16, 2013

COMMENTARY: Pennies and Monet -- Some things may be in the blood

"All lovely things will have an ending. 
All lovely things will face and die;
And youth, that's now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by and by.

Conrad Aiken
I didn't get to know my cousin Reggi very well. She lived 600 miles away and she was several years older at that critical time when those years were most divisive. When we got together, she was the fun glamorous person I wished I could be. As one of my male cousins said to me:  "She got all the beauty. You got all the brains."

I think she had both.
Reggi fought off a rare form of Hodgkins Disease in the late 90's. We thought she was okay. Then, ovarian cancer (as a result of all the scans she had to make sure she was clear of the Hodgkins) set in. She fought long and hard, but eventually lost in 2003.

In 2006, I got the chance to visit her Mom and Dad while I was in Denver. They were living in Reggi's condo at the time. They were caring for her two cats, Alvin and Alicia, and missing her terribly.

So was I.  And yes, I wondered -- why take the beautiful one and leave me behind?
The first inkling I got that perhaps I was more like Reg than I expected was when we found a penny on the sidewalk. Of course, I picked it up. I need all the luck I can get!

Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck.
Find a penny, leave it lay, and you'll have bad luck all the day.
-- Proverb
That's when they started telling me about Reggi and pennies. She saved her pennies. When she was dying, she gave her dad a single penny in a lovely wooden box with a final message. 

I do something a bit odd with my saved pennies. I bless them and toss them where someone might find them and pick them up. Figure their luck has to come from somewhere.

When I got to Reggi's condo, I realized there was more similarity than I'd expected. When I walked into her downstairs bathroom, I saw purple towels and a miniature of Monet's "Waterlilies" hung on the wall. 

Monet's my favorite painter.  His work reminds me strongly of the world I see without my glasses, blurred lines, but an explosion of rich color and sensation. There's no doubt much of this was due to Monet's cataracts while he lived at Giverny. When Monet got eye surgery for the cataracts, the clarity of his paintings improved. I love him in all phases, but that soft, misty time is still my favorite. 

I've been chasing tours of his exhibits most of my life and missing them by that much. I finally managed to see "Waterlilies" in person at the High Museum in Atlanta. I sat down and just breathed it. 

Monet never did anything easy. Despite having cataracts, he still worked at painting water in grass which is difficult to depict. He once said, "I would like to paint the way a bird sings." In my opinion, he did that and he made colors so vivid they bear his signature: 

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.” Claude Monet

I've always wanted a Monet bathroom. I fell in love with a home in Oklahoma City that had purple fixtures in the hall bath. I knew precisely what I was going to do with that bathroom...We didn't buy the home, sadly. I sat there in my cousin's bathroom and realized that time and distance didn't separate us. Somehow we were connected.

I left my Aunt and Uncle a gift. I took every penny I'd accumulated in my suitcase-sized purse and dropped them in random places about the condo where they'd find them and feel loved and blessed. I'm going to find a print of Monet and put it in my home.
I wish I'd known Reggi better. I advise you to reach out to your friends and family if you feel that need while they're alive and make sure they know how much you love and value them. Reggie was in her fifties when she died, far too soon. 
Rebecca McFarland Kyle, January 2013


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