Yamarillo

I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Juan Carlos Alejandro Perez de Luna, but for some reason he prefers to be called Brian. Brian is a Spaniard who loves his heritage. You don’t have to be around Brian long to know that he hails from a Madrid suburb called Las Rozas, he loves Real Madrid, and he’s walked the Camino de Santiago twice.

Brian is also an artist – well, he’s not a very good one.

But being Spanish, he claims to have some direct lineage to Picasso and he keeps trying. I don’t know if he is telling the truth on that one, but I do respect his tenacity. Unfortunately, his art never paid the bills. So Brian had to get a job as a brick layer. As luck would have it, while he lacks artistic ability, he seems to have incredible skill at laying brick. Still, he never gave up on his dream of being an artist and wakes up before the sun every morning to paint, in the hopes that his brush will one day find its voice.

Years went by with more and more bricks and fewer canvases.

One day, Brain discovered something. It came to him unexpectedly but he recognized its value right away. It wasn’t the style or stroke that he had sought for so long. He didn’t dabble in surrealism or try his hand in the abstract. No, Brian found a new color – one he had never seen before. He called it Yamarillo.

When he told me about this new color, he looked slowly in both directions and said it softly as if someone might pilfer his very words. With his thick accent, I couldn’t understand and I had to ask him to speak up.

“Marco, es Yamarillo,” he whispered.

I laughed a little because when he says it, it sounds like an ad for a cheap perfume. But he gave me a look that told me he was deadly serious.

Brian painted with this new color and found that he enjoyed it very much. It was gentle and peaceful, but at the same time it clamored to be heard. In it, he saw joy and energy, youth and vitality; but also a deep wisdom that only the colors of the ages like purple and blue possess. He loved creating with Yamarillo. When he dabbed his brush in Yamarillo, everything was right. For the first time in his life, he felt like a true artist.

It didn’t take long before people began to notice Brian’s paintings. His work with color created some buzz among art critics and he actually sold a few – not enough to give up bricks, but just enough to make him feel like he had a hope and future.

Then, to his dismay, Brian found that he was running out of Yamarillo.

He searched high and low but couldn’t find it again. His supply was dwindling and he realized to his horror that he would soon be completely out. What would he do without this beautiful color? By this time, only one small jar remained and my friend, Brian, had a choice to make.

Day after day, Brian has studied that jar and tried to decide if he should open it and use its contents, or leave it on the shelf so he can enjoy it forever. On one hand, he yearns to paint with this color that brings him infinite joy and stirs the fascination of the art world. On the other, every stroke of the brush is like a stab in the heart because of Yamarillo’s finite supply.

What should my friend, Brian do?

 

 

(Image credit: Mark Burnett)

Three is not Enough

While we sat together at dinner we were introduced to a nice, older lady. When the girls’ names and ages were given, she seemed somewhat overwhelmed.

“No boys?” She asked.

If I had a nickel… I shook my head, “Nope, all girls.”

“Three girls! Wow. You’re a good man.”

Picking up my fork, I thought that line of questioning would end and we could move on to other gentilities, or perhaps our salads. But it didn’t stop.

“Just stopped at three, huh? Three was enough? Didn’t try again.”

And just like that, simple words became broken shards of glass thrown against the soft flesh of my soul.

No, three is not enough. We have four daughters.

I saw my wife’s eyes well up immediately and I felt the heat of my own reddening face. When confronted with this awkward scenario, I’ve found I must make a quick judgment call. Most often I find it necessary to say her name – to politely plead her existence and memory. Kylie would be fifteen… Other times, I survey the situation and decide the correction would only embarrass the person to whom I am speaking. After all, she didn’t know any better. She didn’t know that I have a daughter who has died.

I let it pass.

I looked at the three daughters before me and thought of the one who is gone. I am a better man for all four. Going into fatherhood, I had no idea what the experience would give me. I assumed that I would be the teacher; and yet, I am most often the student. Each little nugget has given me unique treasures. I see beauty, root for the underdog, admire individuality, cherish time, and I value experience in wholly new ways thanks to them. My children have taught me more than I could ever teach them. If I could impart any wisdom on them it would merely be a condensed version of what I have learned in their company over the past twenty-one years.

But this begs a question: Am I a better man for having lost one of them?

It seems a preposterous proposition, but it is a question I ask myself. It is also one of my favorite questions to pose to other dads who have lost a child. Understand that when we meet, we grieving fathers are way past pleasantries from the outset. We almost always jump right to real, meaty conversation because of our shared experience. The answers vary – some say yes, some say no. Some ponder and ask me for my thoughts, but the question never fails to spawn meaningful dialog.

I have had a long time to consider the question. While simply being a father has taught me much, Kylie’s life and death have radically changed me.

I now know that love ranks above all else whereas money, status, and the things that men covet are basically meaningless.

I understand that the people in my life are meant to be treasured and that every experience has value all its own.

Where once I sought conformity, I now seek to celebrate uniqueness in myself and others.

I have come to respect things that are true and genuine regardless of how they make me feel.

I believe my faith was somewhat rote before, but now it is messy and something I must fight for every day.

I have learned the power of the moment – the simple joy of presence in the company of friends and family.

 

So yes, because of the things I have learned through this horrific experience, I believe I am a better man. The cost was far too high, however. I would rather have remained a shallow, worth-less human and have Kylie here. But I was not given that choice.

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Life is a series of undulations: some are relatively minor and the swells of others destroy everything. From each, we learn more about ourselves and about riding the waves so we can be better in the future. As a father, I sink, flounder, and gasp for air daily – my daughters will tell you that. I haven’t the power to calm the sea around me; I can only seek to use the lessons of the storm to be a better man or drown trying.

This much I know: Three is not enough. I miss my baby girl.

I am the father of four.