Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jerry Pfohl, my Dad

Several weeks ago, at about midnight on a Saturday, I got a phone call, and Monday morning at 6 AM I was at the airport. That same evening I was in the United States, and the next day I was in a state of the art medical facility in the middle of the woods in New Hampshire. It was one of the most bizarre transitions of my entire life.

I went because my father had a heart attack, and sadly he died some days later. As I write this, a memorial service in his honor is being held on the property that was so dear to him, and to all of us in his family, the first home I ever knew, and the only place that has been constant for me over these forty one years. Standing in the field where they landed the helicopter to airlift him to the hospital, I had the strange realization that the last time he left his beloved property it was by air.

I've tried writing some things about this whole experience and it hasn't gone very well. I'm back in Brazil and wishing I was at the memorial. Something has changed and I'm not used to it yet. I think I probably won't write about this whole thing, beyond these few words, at least not here. One thing I keep coming back to is that this has always been, and continues to be, the hardest thing about living so far away from my family and friends; the fear, which is now the reality that something could and will happen. I am grateful I live in an age where I can get on a plane and be home the following day. I am more grateful that I have the means to do so.

Anyhow enough about me and just a few words about my Dad. He was a dear man and a great artist, he made many friends and few enemies. Even though we never spoke enough on the phone I never doubted that he loved me very much, and he knew I loved him too. He lived to 81 and he went out the way he wanted to- still physically strong and mentally sharp. No walker, no nursing home. He spent the last thirty years of his life with the woman who could only be described as his soul mate, and I don't use that term lightly.

I wrote a post about my dad on this blog a while back, really more about his artwork than him. The last thing I did before I left that weird hospital in the woods the day my father died was to finally register, and last night I launched his website, albeit with some rough edges. My family tells me it looks great, but really all I did was assemble a bunch of slideshows and put them online, it looks great because my dad was a great artist. Have a look and you'll have much more of an appreciation of who he was and what he did than I could possibly express in words.


Stephanie said...

That really was a beautiful post. In all sincerity, my heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Being far from home, it really is the biggest worry, and I'm sorry that it became your reality. So glad you were able to go home. Thinking of you in Minas.

michelle said...

Well written.
I'm sorry for your loss, but glad you were able to come here and be with the rest of your family.
I checked out your new site. You are right when you say your father was a great artist. I've never seen his work before. I haven't made it through all of the pieces that are online, but what I did see was beautiful, vibrant, and varied. I appreciate the variety of styles, moods and subjects. I also noticed some similarities to your work, especially in the pieces with those long, lanky figures with the curving limbs and long fingers...
Know that we're thinking of you up here, and we hope to see you the next time you are here.

Mei said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I read your post and teared up.

I think it's wonderful that you set up the website in honor of your dad's work. Will be thinking of you and your family here in Campinas.

Zack said...

I was struck by the similarity. My father, now 86, is also an active artist. Did not start until his 50's and is going strong. He, too, wants to 'go' feet first from his own home.
Your father's works are wonderful and good on you for sharing them with the world. My condolences and thoughts are with you.........zack

Fabio Bossard said...

Very nice memorial site. I had seen your dad's artwork before and he was very a talented artist.
Now you have to put a special link on your blog.

John Singer said...

Thanks for the post, Mark. We're thinking of you.

markuza said...

Thanks everyone, and my apologies if I don't leave individual responses to your comments. They mean a lot to me and I appreciate them greatly. It appears that work will continue on the website with more pictures in the near future.

Cacaucoast said...

Mark, I just read this post and I want to pass along my condolences. I think the losing one's parents is one of the hardest passages in life. Your memorial blog is beautiful. Your father was a wonderful artist and his days on this earth must have been very full. Thank you for sharing the beauty of his work.

Gretchen said...

Beautiful post, Mark. I was so glad that you and Jason could make it back to the states before Jerry died.

You are so right - even though Jerry didn't pick up the phone and call you or any of his children often enough he loved you all beyond words. It was a deep wound in his heart that he couldn't be a daily father to his children in the wake of his broken marriages. His reaction was to withdraw (which used to piss me off) but then I had never understood the depth of his grief until now.

I miss him so much.

Love you Mark.