watercolor of pear by emily weil

daily painting | single pear

This morning I am thinking things like, “What would Jamey do?” My brother was so stoic, accepting; even fatalistic. In his 16-month decline from brain cancer I never once heard him complain or feel sorry for himself. I thought that was remarkable. (The nursing facility staff loved him.)

So I’m reframing my current life situation with that in mind. No resistance, no self-pity. I’ll adapt and find what I need, even if I don’t know what that is yet. 

Another thing I admired in him was his sense of civic duty. He helped the Dipsea foot race run more smoothly for 40 years, purely for the love of the race. He served on the board of his condo organization, wanting to contribute out of a sense of responsibility to give back. 

I was told the Dolphin Club in SF lowered their flag to half-mast in honor of him; he was remembered as someone who offered helpful advice and support to other bay swimmers. I am so moved by that (he was a life-long member, which means his photo is up in the club and at some point I’ll go visit it to pay my respects; I loved hearing his stories of different swims, including, amazingly, swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge from SF to Marin). 

So, here’s to you, my beloved big bro. You were respected and admired for the goodness of your soul and your generosity and selflessness and brains and integrity. I hope to become more like you.

7″ x 6″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of dog by emily weil

daily painting | loki

I hope your holidays are sane and warm and safe and that you did not spend Christmas in an airport (wouldn’t it be nice if the airlines treated us like humans?). This little guy Loki was a commission for a Christmas present, and much fun to paint. 

With a lot of help we got my bro into friend Sue’s house for a fabulous Christmas feast. It took some doing — wheelchairs are cumbersome and he’s a tall man — and was a bit risky, for he gets fatigued easily, and crashes hard once tired. But it worked! And I had much help. I think it was fun for him — he wore a very dapper derby hat with a red feather and looked quite handsome.

This is Jim’s last Christmas, and his demise is slow as the brain cancer advances, but I’m told there may be a tipping point in the next weeks with a possible sudden decline. I would welcome that, so he’s done with this awful march of glio sarcoma through his neurons; he’s going into the 9th month of this sorrowful journey. My heart feels like it’s in a box of broken glass, but so far my homicidal urges have been restrained toward certain callous, cold-blooded individuals in Jim’s orbit. And such is the grief path I am on. I am getting more skilled at showing myself compassion as my emotions take me down this bumpy, harrowing path. I’ve given up on trying to be warmly social in human gatherings and I’m OK with that. I’m civilized — that I can manage; I haven’t snarled at anyone in awhile. One helpful outlet is to open my window while driving on the freeway and scream. Very cathartic but it makes my throat scratchy (no one notices, ever).

Grief is hard. There’s very little room in this world for expressions of raw pain and emotion. So it’s pretty lonely sometimes. And it’s weird but I also am finding this to be a time of amazing healing and love and connection, for my moments with my brother are sweet and precious and as we hang out together I find that some of my childhood pain is mending. And as I write this I am chuckling at the purring noises my guinea pig makes when he hears the chirping mobs of finches and sparrows outside at the bird feeder. They are conversing. 

Sending new year love to you all. Isn’t it something? We keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. I’m proud of that.  

8″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

watercolor, pastel painting of abstract calla lily by emily weil

daily painting | abstract calla lily

Hanging out here at Smith Ranch nursing/rehab facility in San Rafael with my recovering brother, Jamey, three+ weeks after he had a sizable malignant tumor removed from his cranium, similar to John McCain’s. I did this abstract calla lily about a month ago, before this frightening avalanche hit, working with watercolors and ink and pastels. Really enjoyed it. Haven’t painted much since then as I’ve been mostly camping out in my brother’s hospital room. He was moved to the rehab spot last week (surgery was at UCSF), and the PT teams were working him, getting his muscles stronger and helping him de-wobble. Which meant I could take out my paints a bit and catch up on laundry.

Except I just found out this morning his next move is into hospice, as he’s not strong enough for radiation — it would weaken him and only would buy a bit of time. Time which would be miserable.

I’m kind of numb, really. Spending lots of time with bro as he struggles to understand what’s happening. His brain has served him well throughout his life, so since it is now turning on him, it’s confusing and upsetting for this accomplished brainiac. He’s an MIT grad (with scholarship) and got his PhD at UC Berkeley in engineering (and he tells great stories of working as a house painter to pay for grad school in the 1970s, including being part of a team that painted Francis Ford Coppola’s office building in North Beach in SF which involved some intricate problem-solving). Always been quite brilliant and good at figuring shit out — he worked as an administrative law judge for the CA Public Utilities Commission (among other career accomplishments) and fought for all of us when Pac Bell or PG&E wanted to unfairly hike up our rates. He’s my one remaining sibling, and has always been my hero (he’s nine years older and as a little girl I worshipped him) and he’s getting ready to leave the planet and I hardly know how to soak up this information. He turns 79 next month. The same age as dad was when he died.

But at the same time I am happy to be with him and help look after him. We have many lovely tender moments, as he lets me into his heart. He sometimes recounts memories — he’s fuzzy on his current situation, but one afternoon talked about our childhood neighbor Carolyn’s grandfather, Grampa Louie who taught meat-cutting classes for years at San Quentin to the prisoners. Not kidding. And dear Carolyn, who babysat me and little sister when we were very young, got a kick out of hearing me recount that story.

Life and death and sickness and here we are, living and dying. I am surrounded on all sides by loving friends and family members who root for me and my brother. Jamey may not be long for this world, but he is loved and respected and adored by many people. And they love me too. And I am grateful for this large and rich and multi-layered existence, truly.

30″ x 22″ ink, pastel, pencil, watercolor on paper