The Lion Painting
It hung in the second bedroom of my grandparents’ house. That’s where I would sleep when I visited. There were two twin beds against the wall in there, and Grandma would put a chair next to my bed, apparently to protect me from falling onto the floor if I rolled the wrong way. Very sweet — but unnecessary, since I had somehow managed to remain uninjured in the many years of sleeping in my own bed at home. But it was just one of her many sweet ways of protecting and loving me.
Then I’d stare at that lion painting on the wall opposite my bed, even after I was supposed to be sleeping. It was always illuminated by a little nightlight in the room, and I was transfixed.
Grandma outlived Grandpa by about 30 years. They were awesome together — high school sweethearts — married 50+ years when Grandpa died. I only knew them to live in that house. So when Grandma moved to assisted living (at 98 — 4 years before she died), we all came to collect what we wanted of their belongings. And all I wanted was that lion painting. No arguments there, since nobody else cared much about it.
My grandfather was an interesting bloke, as far as I remember. Being a bratty and self-absorbed teenager when he died, I never got a chance to know him as a person — a man with real talents and thoughts and dreams. I suspect he had a rich inner life — as an introvert and frustrated artist, possibly with a bit of an addiction problem. But maybe I’m projecting.
My grandparents travelled around the country working as school photographers as long as I remember. Grandpa would take the pictures of the kids, and Grandma would do the paperwork part. Grandpa was also a talented artist, and I recall him doing some figure drawing, but I think he kept that mostly to himself.
Damn, I wish I’d known him better.
When I look at the painting now, I think of the story behind it. I’ve thought about the story behind it since the minute I heard about it, which seems like yesterday.
My grandparents knew of my affinity for the painting (which is actually a chalk drawing). And when they matter-of-factly told me where it came from, little did they know what an impact it would have on me.