He had road maps but rarely ever used them, insisting he had been back and forth the highways from Claremont, California to Aspen, Colorado so many times he didn't need them. He also assumed I knew where we were going every time, then if I passed the exit or the turn or the road, he'd mention politely I had missed the turn. Now I'd had two years in elementary school of Map Skills, which engendered in me a lifelong love of maps plus I pride myself on my driving ability, so I pulled the Suburban over to the side of the highway. I was distracted by hummingbirds fluttering along a fence covered in red, orange and purple flowering vines, but explained for the third time that since I was the driver, unfamiliar with the territory and could not read his mind, in the future I would drive straight unless he warned me ahead of time when and where to turn.
I wish now I had kept a diary of places we passed, conversations we had. All I have is a few pieces of his artwork, one video of a workshop in Virginia, memories and photographs. How do you thank a dead man for taking a detour to see the desolate red beauty of Utah? Bryce Canyon, no words, no photographs will ever do it justice. He claimed to be an atheist and a vegetarian but we had the most remarkable conversations about God while he ate bacon and coffee for breakfast on the road. An unspoken part of my job was to remind him to eat, and delay the first drink of the day, Jack Daniels with orange juice.
Arriving in Aspen, he pointed out all the changes, in his mind for the worse, since he first built his home there forty-odd years back. I agreed with him, but was in awe of the mountains still graced with snow. I asked him if the beauty of the mountains ever changes. He looked at me quizzically and replied, "only on the days when you can't see them." I told him that was how I felt about the ocean.
Then we unpacked the Suburban and I pulled a back muscle trying to get a huge bronze sculpture out. Minor glitch. We went to the post office to take his mail off hold, the grocery store, the liquor store, then had an early dinner, the only one I ever remember being at a reasonable hour. With one day until the workshop, I was given the task of sorting his mail, which after 30 minutes I said, "I need to do something different."
So he had me trim and re-pot twenty geraniums, more to my liking. He told me they were Ginny's. I brought them outside into the sun and watered them; he was whistling somewhere, then a breeze blew and he came around the corner of the guest house. He told me in detail how Ginny died, a heart attack while they were watching TV. He said it happened so fast he couldn't save her, say good-bye or that he loved her. He told me for years whenever the wind blew he thought it was her.