In July a Chicago man (of some note) died. The first time he felt compelled to paint a specific face in was in the early 50s. My mom went to his house today to pick something up, a gift.

My first husband, John, worked with an amazing group of people before he died, some of the most important people in my life because they stood by me, and more importantly him, during those months even though they were all so very young. After he died a salesman from that studio was visiting a home — and he saw a painted portrait of John.

To be clear, a man who had never seen or heard of John felt compelled to paint a portrait of him after John’s death. It isn’t a perfect likeness, but when I showed Jeff the picture that I had that most closely resembled the painting his response was “When did you draw a picture of your John?”

This is coming out all twisted, but I don’t know how else to tell the story.

After Mr. Wilson died, his widow got in touch with my mom and offered her the painting. It is … large. It is this strange coda to John’s artistic life. It reminds me of the ways that John never was exclusively MINE, because this is a story that I have only been an observer of. My mom, and my friend at the Studio are the two who are living it. They heard the stories of the monkey, and the guns. They have seen the picture in person (I haven’t yet).

So now, it has been gifted to … who? My mom? Me? John’s legacy? My family at large which includes his family? My mom isn’t sure, and neither am I. It is so precious a gift, and still, our days of shrines are over for the most part.

Still. Thank you Mr. Wilson, for doing the things you felt compelled to do and painting a face that showed up in your mind unbidden but insistent.

Thank you Mr. Wilson (this picture does not include John)

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