THE PAINTING

 

 

It was 1962 , the times they were a changing.    I was still reading Nancy Drew and enjoying it as I had not broken into song as a teen ager yet.   My older brother Jerry was attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and he was truly a genuine student of the Old Masters.  He had been written up as a protégé in the Philadelphia Inquirer.   I don’t know if we understood all of his talent at that point.    His artistic name was Verald which he gave to himself and he followed the path of the artist with his strange nature.   Besides the smell of oil paint and turpentine, he enjoyed collecting velvet and gold scarfs, hats and feathers or any accessory that could remake the days of old.  Whenever  I was the only one available , he  would  snag me as his model  and take me  to his basement studio which was  a cousin to the dungeon.    On this one day, the sun was shining, however that was of no matter to Verald who was determined to take me to his dark world where a light bulb would hand down just far enough to shade one side of my face.   Always hopeful that he would sketch it out and then release me to the world from whence I came, I sat on the stool patiently as my brother had a seriousness about him that was not to be debated.   His work took on the form of a trance and I wasn’t sure that I was even meant to be there during the process and then he would adjust the hat and manipulate the scarf, turn my face and tell me to hold that position.  At some point I would be called to help my mother with dinner or some other chore.    The days that followed went differently than what I would have imagined as my brother had schizophrenia which did not reveal itself until he was in his twenties.  He lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he sold many painting as this was his livelihood at that time.   He took his own life when he was 28 years of age and the shock has   echoed our family since.  Years later, my aunt told me of a painting that she had acquired of me as a little girl.  She said it looked like something Jerry would have done.   I took the painting home and looked at it though my adult eyes and I saw a little girl who loved her brother very much.

 

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