My Grandma Dottie died October 23, 2012. I was in Turin, Italy..feeling like a million miles away. The call was expected JUST NOT NOW! I wanted time to come home, time to re-group, time to make plans, time to visit, time to connect, time to just be, time to deal. Death never waits for us to be ready.
Maybe you read my earlier blog post, “My Grandma, The Rockstar!” If not, read it! It touches on her amazing life and our history together. The world has lost a beautiful soul and heaven has gained a fiery angel. She was truly a gift to this world.
In the last few moments of her life, she knew she was going to die. She climbed into bed, looked at my Grandpa and said, “Honey, go get the girls…I am going to die!” Within minutes my aunts were by her side and they watched her take her last few breaths as she slid into eternity. Even going into death, she remained poised, gracious, and godly.
Because of my special artistic bond and relationship with my Grandma, I was asked to speak at the memorial service in California. I thought it might be nice to share this with all of you.
P.S. My Grandma was quite the fashionista! I had a subdued, grey dress all picked out, but decided on the fantastic, flamboyant, flamenco skirt instead (she would have approved).
My Grandma Dottie, The Artist
I am Dottie’s granddaughter, Elida, and I, like Dottie, am an artist. I am speaking not only as a granddaughter, but also as a peer in the world of painting and art.
During my formative years, my Grandma Dottie was in L.A. working with USC and the hospital that she helped fund and develop. Even though she wasn’t painting during this time, she was always very creative through sewing, designing, decorating, and certainly with her own personal style. Anyone could have looked at her and thought… “Now there’s an artist!”
Her introduction to painting didn’t happen until she was in her 70’s. Her sister, Jean, was visiting and playing with watercolors. Grandma Dottie, who never sat still for long was getting bored, and decided to just dabble with the paints. Something awoke the painter asleep inside her creative brain, and she decided to keep going. Eventually she took some classes, expanding her capabilities and skills along the way.
Our first time to paint together happened in 1999 while I was in Ridgefield, Washington. Grandma Dottie was visiting and we painted a big red barn together. I still have it today.
I continued to paint in Washington and she went back to California. On one visit, she showed me a painting that was beautiful and quite advanced for a beginning painter. The story behind it was even more impressive. She was taking an oil painting class and brought a picture in that she wanted to paint to show the instructor. The instructor dismissed her stating “you’re not ready!” Of course, this just fired her up, and within the week, she painted the whole thing on her own. The next class, she said nothing but propped her painting prominently on an easel and let the class “oooohhhhh and ahhhhhh” all over it! Needless to say, the instructor never discouraged her again.
Fast forward to 2006 where I had my first “Art-Women-Wine” show in Vancouver, WA. When she arrived, and saw I was painting a horse on a huge canvas, she wanted to do the same. I tried to reason with her as we only had two days until the show, but to no avail. One of the nights she was working on it for so long she literally fell asleep standing up. Of course she finished it in time, and it was the hit of the entire show!
She had become a “full on painter”..even built a studio in her home. Because of the distance, we’d chat on the phone… “talking shop”, brainstorming new ideas and techniques. She’d call me about colors or mixing questions. Eventually I started to fly down for extended weekends calling these getaways my “swedish retreats” to paint with Grandma! My Aunt Deb, who lived right next door, joked that she never even knew I was in town, because Grandma had me shut up with her in the studio all day only to emerge for food, water, and the occasional glass of wine.
We were like twins separated in time. Physically, we were the same height, weight, and shoe size. I loved raiding her closet. She had phenomonal taste and a timeless collection. On one of my visits, she went through her closet, telling me the story behind each piece. There was the jacket from Paris that Grandpa had bought her, the perfect suit that she never tired of, and the silver ballroom dress and shoes that she wore only once. I tried on all kinds of things that day, twirling through the living room to get Grandpa’s approval and going home with many of them.
Beyond our physical likenesses we shared a deeper bond. I feel her blood pump through my veins, her thoughts, ideas and creativity carrying on through the generations and coming out of me. When we’d paint, it was a linking of our spirits. Everything flowed out as if we were one person. She’d start on one side of the canvas and me on the other. Without words we’d dance effortlessly around the canvas together, our brushstrokes intermixing, working our way to the other side. We signed our last piece with a new name.. “Eliottie” as a combination of Elida and Dottie.
A few years ago, I was on vacation and I found a photography book of Native American portraits. Grandma loved to paint portraits, and was especially drawn to the Native Americans. I bought the book and began marking the pages of my favorite portraits for her to paint. When I got home I called her excitedly and started chatting away about my find. Midway through my description, she stopped me as she realized that she was already painting the exact portrait I was explaining, and had bought the same book at the same time as me! I couldn’t believe it!
Grandma Dottie often joked she was like Grandma Moses… “just not quite as old or nearly as rich and famous!” It’s true that she started late in life with a brush, but I believe it was just the beginning. Like the horse she painted here, breaking free and running wild, this is her! On earth, she was bridled and held by the reins of her own human capabilities. I imagine my Grandma Dottie now, running free with no bridle, no halter or ropes to tie her down. I imagine her painting wildly on a giant canvas…with colors beyond my imagination. I bet she’s leaving a few of them unfinished, …so when we re-unite we can “talk shop”, paint together, and sign them with our new name.