A few weeks before my father died in 1997, he said to my husband Harley, and me, “I never knew dying could be so much fun!”
A few weeks before my father died in 1997, he said to my husband Harley, and me, “I never knew dying could be so much fun!” “What do you mean? What’s fun about it?” I asked laughing. “Oh, it’s delightful to see all the people I love, and they say such sweet things to me. I’m comfortable in my happy home, I can eat anything I want at any time – even ice cream! I mull over my long life, and how lucky I have been and still am, and I am deeply grateful.”
During one of our last conversations, my father told me about a man he knew who had worked as a stockbroker, but hated it and finally quit and bought an old farm in Vermont. He fixed it up, planted an orchard, a large garden, and had many different farm animals. “He was extremely happy there.” “Geez, dada,” I said, “I figured that out years ago!” (Harley, and the children, and I, had been living happily for years on our “farmette” with pigs, chickens, horses, cows, cats, and dogs.) Dada’s eyes twinkled as he patted my hand, and said, “My point exactly! I’ve admired the way you have lived your life all this time, and I am very proud of you. You were right all along.”
I realized my father was referring to a slightly heated discussion we’d had at least twenty years before when he’d told me, “You know there is more to life than following your hedonistic whims.” And I had asked, “Like what?” “Well, you have to be responsible – have a job and do it well, take care of your children and loved ones, be generous and help your friends and others. You can’t just go to parties and smoke marijuana all day.” “I know that!” I had said, sounding somewhat irritated. “If I didn’t take care of all my responsibilities it would mess up my hedonism, and I wouldn’t be able to have a good time.” My father looked thoughtful and dropped the subject.
It meant so much to me that my father had remembered our “hedonist discussion” when he was dying and wanted me to know he thought I had been a good, responsible person, and especially that he was proud of me despite the unconventional choices I had made in my life. He was the most joyful, grateful, optimistic, person I ever met. I know I am incredibly lucky to have had such a sweet dada.
Annie Campbell’s many jobs have included waiting tables, repairing antiques, milking cows, and painting houses. Since 1989, when she painted carousel horses on a merry-go-round, she has been working exclusively as a painter and illustrator. Her work includes illustrations for children’s books, the artwork for six award-winning card games published by Gamewright during the 1990s, greeting cards for Bottman Design, teaching painting for adult education and children’s after school-programs, private commissions, and many group and solo art shows. Annie, along with her husband, Harley, lives in Trumansburg, NY.