He looks off to my left, in a bored fashion. Locked in time, forever seeing the same thing. His eyes are sad although the man I knew was not. He’s not sad, he’s just drawn that way. Around his neck hangs the tooth of a long extinct monster; a beast that roamed the waters of the earth and was master of its domain, just like the man. A fossil for a fossil. He wears it with pride.
The hat rests on his crown slightly askew, as it is supposed to be worn, according to him. His beard groomed in his special way, never quite like anyone else. Ever the rebel, ever the individual. Fighting with all his might to stand out from the pack. Look at me, notice me, see me. I am here. I exist. I matter.
He was a man of the Earth and loved the world in which he lived. Not the people so much, although he was quick to corner an unsuspecting listener with tales of his greatness if the opportunity arose. He walked among the sand and soaked in the sun. After long years of never really fitting in, he finally found his domain among the palm trees and sandy beaches. A man of water that was afraid to swim.
Charlie Canoe took his name from a long metal craft that he guided through the calm waters with great precision. It was a small ship, but he was the captain. At times I was his first mate. He would take me on adventures across dangerous waters filled with reptilian snarls and hungry eyes that watched us patiently… watching, waiting. My captain was fearless. I was not. But as he promised, no harm ever came to me and I discovered a man I never knew.
He was the man of pies, the Italian kind and they saved him from the obscurity he feared so much. A man out of touch, out of place, out of time. He struggled through life and I feel his struggle as I face each of my days. I know now what I didn’t know then. He was just like me.
I remember when he posed for the painting that immortalized him. He enjoyed that and did it often. A Renaissance man if ever there was. I remember the day he presented it to me. Not a lovely piece, in any light, but it was him and I knew someday it might be all I had. It hangs now on my wall and gives me a two-dimensional face that lights up three-dimensional ghosts from my past.
We fought. He knew best and so did I. His love could be maddening at times. But it was still love, even when I could not see it. And I loved him in return, even when I did not feel it. And love is strong. Love remains when the fires of anger die and fade away. Love survives like a fossil that reminds us of a time long gone.
I remember him, the man on the wall. I miss him. His body long scattered to the wind and water. If there is a spirit, it must be free. He would accept nothing less. And someday, neither shall I.
As I gaze into those far away eyes, I see myself. In time it will be me. In time, I will be the man on the wall.
Dedicated to my grandfather.