“Listen, Mike, I am not saying you’re not good. I’m just saying that you should worry more about the welfare of your family”
“I know what I am doing! And Ted, I am looking out for the welfare of my family, that is why I am doing this project.”
Mike continues to gently brush the canvas with intenseness like no other. I admit he is good, but he gets so lost in his work most of the time and losses contact with the rest of the world, including his own family. I have been trying to talk him out of this project for about six months.
“Mike, are you willing to lose your family in order to try to provide for them?”
“What are you talking about? I am not going to lose them. Things are just a little hectic right now that’s all. When this project is over, then things will go back to normal as usual. They understand that I have to spend a little more time on this then with them, but it is all for the good of the family.” Mike continues to paint, with a little frustration on his face from being heckled by his best friend.
“Well, then I guess all that is left to say is good luck and I hope things work out for you.”
I started for the door and I was so hoping that he would say something, anything, but all he did was continue to paint. Probably thinking that I am jealous or envious of his accomplishments. I am not jealous of him, more saddened for him. He has a beautiful wife, two great children, and a lovely home that is paid for, no less, and two cars that are also paid for. A life that many people only dream of having and he is throwing it all away.
“So, what did he say, Ted?” – Sara’s hands playing with a hand towel and her face and eyes looking as though she just finished a five hour crying spell.
“No change, in fact, I think he is more into it now, more than before. I am sorry Sara, I was hoping, no praying that I could give him one more try. I am sorry I could not convince him.”
“It’s ok, it is not your fault, it is no ones fault. I was just hoping things would have been different. I know what I must do, but I am not looking forward to it. Thank you for your help, Ted, I really appreciate your friendship with Mike.”
“Well, I just wished he appreciated it as much as you and I do. I will see you later, if things work out, but if not then you take care of yourself and please take good care of those kids. There good kids and you have done a great job raising them. Let me know when you arrive or if plans change, ok.”
“I will, and again, thank you.”
She looked as though she was going to have to tell her little girl that her favorite pet died. It was a look that revealed the pain and suffering going on inside her heart. A look that I could not look upon without feeling that a part of my life was now over and with no way of being brought back. Sometimes, you think inside your heart, with all the things that have to happen, that life is very unfair and unforgiving.
“Mike, we need to talk. There is something very important that I need to talk to you about.”
“Can it wait till later, I am almost done with this section of the painting? Listen, what ever it is, it can wait till later this evening when I get home, ok!”
“Mike, we won’t be home when you get home.”
“Oh, ok, well, then when you get back from wherever, we can talk then, just not right now.”
“Your not understanding, I am not coming back. The children and I are leaving. We can no longer live this way. I can no longer live this way.”
“What, after all I am doing for this family, you’re just going to walk out on me now? If it is about the money, we will have plenty after this project, I promise.”
“Then what? You’ll go back into your deep depression slumber while the kids and I watch from the sidelines as you push the world out, including us. No, thank you, I am not going to allow you to do that to the children anymore. For the past six years, you were either in a deep depression because you couldn’t find a good high paying painting job or when you did you were always at work. We have seen so little of you, that your own children don’t even ask where you are or when your coming home anymore. It breaks my heart to think you would rather paint or sulk more than you would like to spend time with your family.”
“I will not lose you, Sara, I can’t lose you now.”
“You have already lost me. If you did not want to lose me, you should have thought about that six years ago when I tried to get you back into the family, or four years ago, when your best friend tried to talk to you. I would have stayed even today, if you would only have listened to your friend today, but you would rather be where you are right now, then with us, so we are granting your wish and allowing you to do what you will full time. Good bye.”
“Wait, Sara, you can’t leave. All of this I am doing for you and the children can’t you see that? All of this is for you.”
“No, no, it has always been about what you want, about your needs, about your painting career. It has never been about us, because we didn’t want all of this, we wanted you. You wanted all of this, so don’t you try to blame the kids and I for your selfishness.”
“Sara! Sara! No, don’t go!”
Mike, not knowing what to do, did the only thing he could do to take the pain away…paint. I went to check up on him six months later and with no surprise, he was still painting. Only this time his face and countenance was different. More empty and shallow as though all that was there was a shell of a man and no one inside.
“Mike? Heh, man how are you doing?” I slowly walked up to his latter, not knowing what to expect.
“I lost her. I lost her.” With no expression on his face, no emotion in his eyes he just repeated the same phrase over and over again. I spent about two hours with him just sitting, watching him paint and no other words came out of his mouth, but I lost her. He didn’t even seem to acknowledge my existence in the room as he painted. It was as though the life within him was completely gone and yet his body continued to do what it knew to do.
“Mike, I can help you get her back. I can help you get Sara back.”
The paint brush stopped moving and his body was motionless for just a few seconds and for the first time in those two hours he looked right at me with eyes that seemed to have been crying so much that there were no more tears left. A face that only shined hopelessness and a state of being completely lost right in the middle of everywhere. He was completely surrounded by so many fans and critics and those wanting to be his friend and yet he was completely and utterly alone.
“How? What must I do? I will do anything. Anything.”
“You have to give up this project and painting all together. You have to go back to her a new man. A different man, one that is going to look out for her welfare and not your own.”
“I thought I was. I thought that’s what I was doing. I don’t know how to be anything other than what I am.”
His eyes slowly looking toward the canvas, he has been staring at for so many months. Yet this time with a look that was almost disgust.
“You know, she has always been my inspiration for all my work. From the very first time I saw her in college, I knew she was the one that I would grow old together with. I never imagined my life without her, but I guess I never imagined my life like this either.”
“It is not too late. You can still fix this and get her back. Do you remember me telling you that the Bible says in Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” You allowed yourself to be fooled into the philosophy that providing for your family is more important than being there for them. Providing for them is important, but not if in providing for them, you lose them. Choose right now which is more important to you, the painting before you or your wife and children. And when you choose be sure it is the one you want, because you won’t get both.”
He didn’t say anything to me. He just put the brush down on the table and slowly walked to the door.
“Where are they?”
“At her moms. She has not stopped crying herself to sleep since she left.”
“Thank you, Ted.”
And with that he shut the door behind him. I don’t know exactly what was said or done, all I know is that a few months later they were expecting their third child and they moved into a smaller home in some small town near her parents. I got a letter from him a year later that only read; “With every choice in life you must sacrifice something for something else. Be sure what you have chosen is well worth what you have chosen to give up, because you may not get a second chance as I did to get it back.”