I’m not a terribly religious person. Too often, we seem to use religion as an excuse to berate, hate, stereotype, shut down, and exclude, but that’s a whole other conversation…or a presidential tweet, whatever.
With that in mind, I, unfortunately, hesitated to take Paint By Numbers Jesus when my sister and I went on the last raid of Gpa and Gma’s house before the auction. We were in the middle of Great Grandma’s room, the spare bedroom now, surrounded by open boxes waiting for bidders. I held the painting which was so much bigger than I remembered it being when it was on the wall, with the frame it measures 35 x 18 inches or about two Miles long, and tried to visualize where it could go in my house. I didn’t know why I wanted it other than Gma had painted it, and the kitsch value was off the charts. The mythology of Paint By Numbers Jesus says that Gma spent hours and hours meticulously working on filling in those numbers. There was no cell service to debate it with MomBert and my sister was hesitant to give a firm “yes.” We were both certain there was a smaller painting somewhere, but only found a velvet clown that clearly belonged in someone else’s house, not ours!
So I bypassed Paint By Numbers Jesus in favor of smaller sewing implements, some play dress-up jewelry, a pocket knife, and a cast iron weiner dog that was always at the front door.
Gpa passed in August of 2017, but it took his children another year to argue about paperwork, possessions, and land before the auction was set for the house, contents, and a section of property. (Advice to those thinking about their descendants and what you want to have happen after you die, do not put faith in the “better natures” of your survivors and their willingness to “do the right thing.” Verbalized wishes mean squat, put it in the will. The end.)
When our father asked us if there was anything we wanted post auction, I inquired about Jesus. Miraculously, Paint By Numbers Jesus survived the auction! Not sure about the clown. I graciously suggested that he put a bow on Jesus and hand it to me at Christmas. I thought this was a no-brainer because it would be free and zero effort on his part, things he loves.
I did not get Jesus at Christmas. Whole bunch of fucking irony there.
Since there were no offers to just go get Jesus from wherever he was being stored- presumably NOT in a climate controlled, art friendly environment- I reiterated that I would like Jesus and, hey, my birthday was just around the corner! Alas the Amazon gift card I received could not purchase Paint By Numbers Jesus.
This is how it goes with our father. Things that you thought you agreed to, things that should be simple or straightforward, things that seem to be standard in other people’s relationships, become negotiations, traps, hostage situations with moments of begging layered with a coating of bullshit because you want something that he has whether it’s informational, material, or Paint By Numbers Jesus forbid monetary. The newest fun game every visit is to ask us what we want to inherit while our stepmother chants from the sidelines that we don’t need to worry, that all the paperwork will be in place, and us kids (which includes her children as well) will be equally taken care of! No matter what we respond to him with, whether serious or sarcastic (with that tiny grain of truth), he laughs. During the latest round of this, I said I wanted Jesus. Dad went with his standard ploy of “not remembering” where the thing I wanted was, but relaying how many hours Gma spent working on it.
However about an hour and one trap later, I was invited to meet him to pick up Jesus. He literally waited until I left his house, and was driving out of town to call my cell and suggest this hand off. Jesus was hanging off a wagon handle in a large storage barn along with the other unsold items….and the dirt, mice, birds, weather, and mud daubers that were building tubed nests on EVERYTHING. It was exactly the environment where I expected to find Jesus eight months after hesitating to carry him away.
Paint By Numbers Jesus was my co-pilot home. Those in the know applauded the “I got Jesus!” text messages. Miles was more concerned than thrilled. When I told him the name of the painting, he was like “LAST SUPPER! WTF?! That’s no good!” His concerns for food outweigh concerns for relationships, art, and religion.