Monday, February 05, 2007
Andy Virgil - Epilogue
Photos I took of Andy in Kinnelon in the early 1960s.
Jenny took this last photograph of Andy in September 1980, two months before his death.
Studying it now, after all I have just written, I realize how much it fits into the story I have told. Wearing one of the many sweaters I knitted for him, in addition to his typical serious, intent look -- there are those beautiful hands. The one, poised over the chessboard, looks no different than when he lightly held a paintbrush poised over his artwork.
When he died in late November, neither Jen nor I could bear to think of him inside a coffin! We told no one, but the plain pine coffin in the funeral home was empty. On top we placed this photo. Neither did Jen nor I wish to bury Andy in Montclair where we had been so unhappy for so long. Instead, we decided we would fly his ashes to Provincetown, Massachusetts where we three had always been joyful.
On a bitter cold and sunny day, we hired a dune buggy, waited with the driver in a coffee shop on Commercial Street until the tide went out so we could drive the reach to the tip end of Provincetown where the lighthouse stood.
With my own hands, I scooped away the sand and buried his ashes beside Long Point Lighthouse. Whenever you are at the bay where we always stayed, you can see that ‘monument’ we felt was the right one for such a man. And we fancied Andy would have agreed. From there, by day, he could always ‘look’ across the curve of bay and watch the incredible play of light of that place in all seasons. And by night he would have the twinkling cheery lights of the town so long a haven for American artists.
Until 1990, I could not distill this experience into the poem I wanted to write. And then suddenly I did.
more ill . . .
rattle the window
thru the hospital gown
small as our child’s
the call comes . . .
making it thru night
selecting the music
of your life
talking to a priest:
“We are not believers
but the family . . . “
in the coffin
at the end
the church empties to Bach’s
Tocatta & Fugue
in the back office
of the funeral parlor
the small box
of your ashes
along the cold street
at the airport
Jenny & I
& the box wait
the bay the sky she & I
rise & soar with you
the reach . . .
flocks of gulls rise in sunlight
by the lighthouse
heavier than the sand
each pale handful
from the little box
in the shadow of the lighthouse
rising sand & ashes
blow from me
the winter sun
bay & ocean glisten on
Here I would like to thank Leif Peng first for loving Andy’s work before he knew anything about him, and then for asking me all the incredible questions that stirred loose these memories and brought them back to the surface to be shared with others who struggle to follow their dreams. Leif has given me the greatest thing any artist thrives upon and that is complete artistic freedom. And he has provided Andy with the full recognition he always deserved.
Andy’s niece, Andrea Luciano Fehrman (who was named after Andy) found Today’s Inspiration by chance, and wrote Leif about me and wrote me about him. Without that, this story would never have been told. I shall always be grateful.
My thanks to Andrea’s mother, my sister-in-law, Ethel Luciano with whom I have also kept in touch all these years. She provided me with details of Andy’s childhood and his teenage years so I could build his story on a solid foundation of truth.
Mario Calafatello, my brother-in-law I thank for the fine photo capturing Andy playing his beloved trumpet to Jenny.
Last, my eternal thanks to my daughter, Jennifer Leigh Virgil Gurchinoff, about whom no parent could say more: she is exactly what Andy and I wanted -- but never thought we’d get. And of course it is she who photographed all of her father’s art for this and continues the line of talent with her photography, and passed the genes on to one little son who, at ten, has never stopped drawing.
Anita Virgil is an internationally anthologized haiku poet. She lives in Forest, Virginia.
Entire contents of these posts on Andy Virgil (both text and pictures) © 2007 Anita Virgil. Nothing may be reproduced without permission of the author.
* The selection of Andy Virgil's original art available from Graphic Collectibles has been expanded.
NOTE: For anyone interested in reading this story in its entirety, click on this new Andy Virgil blog. It will remain available.