Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dear Bob, We celebrated your life tonight...

as an artist, a dear friend, an old love, a magnificent teacher, a family member. Did you see us at Okay Mountain? We all expected to see your white pickup parked in the neighborhood, and all evening we spoke of how eerie it was that we all pictured you in the same spot in the yard in the same seat, with your long legs stretched out. Suze and I went together, fittingly, and brought a huge bottle of your beloved Bulleit bourbon with us for everyone to toast you, with a tag I made for its neck that read, "For Bob, with love, from Hard Women." Your students from all the way back to the 80's (including Suze and me!) were there. Did you hear the stories we shared, and how I told the crowd how it was you who named us Hard Women in the first place, and how you never missed a single show? (Suze had said earlier, "Maybe we should have shared more men?" And I said, "No." You were enough, separated, even, as you were by fifteen or so years in our romantic histories. But that is a funny shared experience between best friends! We'll always have YOU in common. And she told me about how she left a wedding to go have hot sex with you, while the bride, Malka, went next door and visited your beloved friend, Steve Jones.)

And did you see that Suze and I embraced your beloved Peggy, and she clung to us all evening, sometimes with the three of us putting our heads together? We took care of her for you this evening, Bob. She loves you so much, and it was so wonderful to know that you died at the height of a great love. I am so genuinely happy for the two of you, and so sad for Peggy that she must find a way to live on without you.

Your exhibition was beautiful, and even more so because it was works you gave each of us, not work for sale. Everyone shared their stories of how you gave them the works, and there was a tack-up wall of the drawings you'd always made for each crop of your grad students. You were so generous to us!

And I finally met your sister. She said to Suze and me, "You knew him better than I did." She said, "Now I understand why he didn't want to come to our house for the holidays. He had all of you, and was part of this artistic community." Bob, she finally gets it. She sees what you meant to us, that you weren't some kind of crazy recluse. She finally gets it, by hearing our stories and seeing the crowd there to celebrate your life as an artist. Yours was the biggest opening of the year!

There are so many people who will miss you here. We toasted the sky and talked to you -- could you hear us? Go in peace now, my old, gentle, mad sweetheart. Peggy is afraid you'll hover near her and she wants you to be released and find peace. Please hear her heart and do as she needs you to do now. We will take care of her, and her children are clinging close to her.

I regret I didn't have the opportunity to look into your watery blue eyes one more time and see your crooked grin. I regret what I didn't get the chance to say to you, so I'll say it now: Bob, thank you. Thank you for our brief time together, thank you for your art, and thank you for teaching me everything I know about artistic discipline. You were a great artist, a great teacher and a pure, perfect soul. You are loved, and you are missed. At every party we will miss you most of all because we know you would have loved to be with us; and you will be. Linda Montano sends her love, and as I told her just now on the phone, please go back to sleep now, and sweet dreams, my tall boy, my Ichabod.

Sending you my love tonight,

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