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I met Painter Jim at a book signing. He asked me to look at his sketches. I told him I wasn’t into those kinds of things. Fifty years ago, I might have fallen for his pickup line.
He said he needed some help with his art and I told him I was too busy writing. I only painted for myself these days.
“Just look at them and see if I have talent.” He begged, “Just look. I don’t know where to go next.”
Reluctantly, I said, “Yes, I’ll look, but that’s all.”
He drove to the Lower Blanco with all his paintings. He sunk down into 2 feet of mud as he made three trips into the house with armloads of paintings. That’s when I knew he was serious.
His artwork is very good and I told him he has a lot of talent and I might consider teaching him. I paint on Friday afternoons. He could paint along with me. I would keep an eye on him. That’s all I would promise.
Tears welled up in his eyes.
I said, “Don’t cry. I can’t handle old men crying. It gets to me every time. My Sweet Al is so tender, he cries, too. Why is it when men get old they cry and when women get old, they get bossy?”
“I’m so grateful you’ll teach me. I’ve looked for a teacher for a long time and studied art lessons on YouTube. I just need someone to show me what I’m doing wrong.” He began to tear up again. “I’ll pay you.”
“I don’t want to be paid. But there is one requirement. You have to read my articles every week.”’
He said, “I don’t read.”
And I said, “I don’t teach.”
Then he said, “I promise you, I’ll read your articles.”
And I said, “There is no guarantee. Your name might appear in my articles, is that OK?”
He thought a minute and said, “I guess it’s OK.”
“OK. We’ll paint together.”
The next week, he came in a panic. “I looked all over the house and told my wife I won’t get a lesson if I don’t read the paper. She threw out the newspaper before I had a chance to read it.”
“No lesson today.”
“But, I retrieved it out of the trash and I read it.”
“Good. Then we’ll paint together.”
I told my kids about my new art student and how I make him read my articles in exchange for painting lessons.
The kids said, “Mother, it’s not always about you. Besides, you can’t be that way.”
“Because you make up all these stupid rules for everyone to follow. They don’t make sense.”
“They make perfect sense to me. If I’m going to be in his life, he’s got to be in mine.”
Today, Painter Jim walked through the mud and I asked him, “Jim, did you bring your house shoes?”
“I sure did.” He took off his muddy boots and put on his house shoes. It’s funny to me I trained Jim in the second week to take off his shoes. Maybe it was his wife that taught him. I’ve been working on my Sweet Al for 57 years and he still forgets to take off his muddy boots at the front door.
I don’t think Painter Jim is having trouble with my rules. He said today, “The weeks are so long, and I can hardly wait for Friday to paint with you. It’s my favorite day of the week. I form my week around Fridays.”
It can’t be all that bad for Jim. He likes our arrangement and he doesn’t mind my rules.
Then our son said, “It’s just like telling Daddy he couldn’t eat a peanut in the new car. Let the poor man have a peanut.”
Our new car is just the way we drove it off the showroom floor. We drove it home and parked it in the garage. We’ve only taken it out two times in the last month because of the snow, mud and potholes.
We decided to take the car to the movies. Our daughter and son went with us.
I put down my foot; no eating in the car. That’s my rule.
Our daughters always bring their dad snacks. It’s that special gesture that tells Al that his daughters are thinking about him. It might be a candy bar or a grape slush. That day, our daughter, Allison, brought her dad a package of peanuts. He sat in the back seat and opened up the peanuts and put one in his mouth.
I came unglued. “No, don’t eat that peanut.” The family went into shock.
Final brushstroke: It might just be a peanut. The older I get I have my rules. Jim, the painter, same age as Al, knows how to keep the rules. My family pushes the boundaries constantly and I have to be bossy because they don’t take me serious. One peanut will lead to a McDonald’s Happy Meal, a chocolate candy bar or a grape slush during happy hour. I can’t risk it.
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“My sweet daughter who lives in Pagosa began sending me your articles a while back because I enjoy them so much. How did your dog Whiskey get her name? There must be a story there.” — JAB, Arlington, Texas
Our neighbor said to me, “I thought you were good church goers. Why would you name your dog Whiskey? I’ve heard it all.” The truth about Whiskey’s name is she is a wirehaired hunting dog with black, coarse whiskers. Al’s brother told Al to call her Whiskey. Blame David. When Al’s brother says, “Jump,” Al jumps. It’s funny to me; I say, “Jump,” Al doesn’t seem to hear me.