Monday, December 6, 2010

Twenty Questions: Euchred, a Short Conversation

I often refer to my Muses when I talk about my various creative endeavors. It's not just my voice that I'm getting out onto page or canvas or whatever, but the voices of others... the voices of those I carry with me. Always. You don't have to be dead to be one of my Muses, but evidently it helps. Yes, Muses - always capitalized out of deep respect (and some fear, awe, and okay, occasionally a soup├žon of loathing for the way they hijack my days).

My nephew Jason asked: If you could sit down with either your dad, or Grandma Schmutzer, either or, or both. What would you talk about, who would lead the conversation, what questions would you ask etc...

In some ways, that's an easy one. I talk to them every day, or at least listen to them. They are my two top Muses. Even so, I can't really say that we converse. Words are kept at a minimum - we have work to do. At most, I'll look at Dad's picture and say, "Help me here, Dad...?" In reply I'll get, "Like this..." Or, having done the work, I might look at his picture, feeling rather proud, and say, "What d'ya think?" To which he'll answer, "Looks good, Punkin."

Dad is in the grand picture. Grandma Schmutzer is in the details.

Grandma is there when I need to do tiny work, when I need to do pointillist styled drawings or tie little baby sized ribbons, or sew or cook. Whenever small detail is accomplished, I hear Grandma's satisfied sigh, and her barely uttered, "Nuh." This is Grandma Schmutzer speak for "job well done." She's there when I sew, always telling me to slow down. She is always present in the kitchen. I can still feel her aged hands on my small pre-adolescent hands whenever I kneed dough. She's there sipping stew from a spoon, saying "Needs salt." Or if it tastes just right, "Nuh."

But. Conversations? Those don't usually happen. I'm having a really difficult time imagining a conversation because we get along so well in our silences. It's as if everything that needed to be said is done and gone. It's the doing that counts. I'm not sure what I could ask or what answer I could get that would matter any more. So much of it has already been answered through my work and through the way that they are with me when I'm working. All their love funnels through me and out my hands.

When Grandma was alive, all my conversations with her were about her stories. I loved her stories and they will be a book someday soon. If I were allowed to sit with her again, I'd go over those same old stories, or prompt her for new ones. One time she told me, "You know vhy I like aboud you? You always listenink... none a'dis 'oh Gramma' or runnink off to do som'tink." So, given the opportunity, I would just listen again.

Were I allowed to talk with my Dad? I can think of questions I'd ask, but I don't think the answers would signify. So much of how I felt about my Dad, my opinions and judgments, went out the window when I embraced the artist within me. It gave me a window into who he was and how he felt. I understand so much more now. I think I wouldn't say a word. I think I would simply hand him a sketch pad and pencil, and I'd sit back and watch through my tears. Everything real that he had to say came through in his art. And that's what I'd most like to "hear" again.

This is probably not the conversation Jason wanted to hear. When I try to picture something else, I see us at a table playing euchre. (My family is a card playin' bunch of maniacs. There is no gathering that doesn't involve a deck of cards.) I see Dad sitting across from Grandma, and they're partners in the game. I don't see my partner, just a shadowy figure and a set of old hands holding up some cards. Dad says, "My nickel's in. Let's make it in clubs." The shadowy figure sighs and rearranges its cards. Grandma leads with a jack of clubs and says with a grin, "Nuh." I giggle and say, "Oh, Gramma! How could you?!" In pretend disgust I throw my left bower on top of her jack. Dad just smiles hugely and nods.

Fade to black.


  1. readback line - 'because we get along so well in our silence'

  2. very nice . . . it makes me think of my dad, my sister, all of my grandparents and friends who have passed before me . . . and how much i miss their voices, their laughter . . . their words.

    you made me cry. thank you.

    hairy e. rutherford

  3. Beautiful! Just perfectly beautiful!


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