I found this photo recently, taken by my mother, of my family when we were all much younger. There I am painting away (it looks as though I'm wearing a nice smock along with my cowgirl hat), and it looks as though my father is teaching my brother how to hammer nails. It would have been before I entered second grade. I don't remember the easel – but my dad was a constant.
My father passed away at the end of August. It's still hard to imagine how someone so packed with vitality, good humor, and love could be gone, even though I was with him for much of that last month, and there helping give him hospice care his last two days, after he'd returned home from the hospital.
I found the photograph as I was going through as many photos as my mother was able to dig out, scanning them to make a slide show for his memorial service, which we held this last week. Although I don't remember the easel – which I'm guessing he probably made for me – I remember the patio. Dad built it himself, along with the lattice fence behind us and the arbor overhead. Out of range, to my left, my handprints, along with my brother's and the pawprints of our dog, Nipper, are memorialized in the cement.
Construction wasn't his first priority. Our family was. He was a social worker, for much of his career working for Child Protective Services. He worked with children and families who weren't anywhere near as fortunate as we were, and then he came home, and made sure we all knew we were loved.
He supported me in my choices, whether it was to study Art or English; to sing (he and my mother went to all my concerts); to tell stories or be in plays (they went to all of those, too); to teach high school, though it took me to another part of the state; to make art, this crazy life of creativity I would not be whole without; or to move into Calistoga, this little town I love.
I miss him tremendously; we all do. I was very, very lucky, to have been his daughter. Thank you, Dad.
Karen Lynn Ingalls
I am an artist in Napa and Sonoma Counties, in California. I paint colorist landscapes of rural California, teach art classes and lessons, and live in Calistoga, California. I also teach private, group, and corporate art workshops in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and other parts of Northern California.