I have a decoration on my tabletop that reminds me of someone whom I used to be friends with but he’s now deceased.
This is a print that I have in a box frame that is currently sitting on my tabletop next to the Christmas tree. It was originally a wood printed Christmas card that was created by my friend based on his own original art.
The friend’s name was drex Andrex (he used a lowercase “d” in the first letter of his first name) and he was a very talented artist. My then-husband and I first met him through our Unitarian Universalist congregation and we served on a variety of committees together and frequently met with him and his wife, Ann, at a variety of social events. drex would’ve loved to have been able to make a living as an artist but, unfortunately, he never made enough money at his art to pay the bills. He had a day job as a federal employee plus there were the years when he and his wife raised three children so he had to limit doing his art to whenever he had some free time.
I remember when he and Ann would hold a series of weekly get-togethers at their home in the summer known as the Carport Studio where we would get together in the carport, socialize, drink beer and wine, eat whatever snacks they put out, and create some art. I had some pretty fond memories of those times.
drex was mainly into painting landscapes and cityscapes based on places where he and his family lived. (They lived in Europe for a few years—mainly Belgium and the United Kingdom—in the 1970’s and 1980’s.) He painted in an impressionist style and I’ve always loved his work. He tried selling his paintings to galleries and art dealers but he frequently got turned away. Having seen his work, I never understood why the galleries and art dealers rejected him. He was able to have a few art shows here and there but he really deserved better from the art world.
Fortunately he had his day job so he didn’t have to be the stereotypical starving artist.
At one point drex and Ann became involved with a group of people who were keen on starting a co-housing group. It took several years for this group to get off the ground because they had to find and buy the land then there were arguments and discussions over all kinds of issues ranging from what kind of houses would be built there to procedures to accepting new members into that group. By the time the co-housing development was finally built near Frederick, drex and Ann’s youngest daughter was midway through her senior year of high school. They waited until the daughter finished school, put their current house on the market, then moved to the co-housing development.
The Carport Studio get-togethers had ceased when they moved but my husband and I visited them in their new home a few months after they moved and they seemed happy. drex was selling his paintings that weekend and my husband and I purchased one of his oil paintings of a boat in a harbor and we hung it in our living room.
Sadly their happiness was short-lived. A year or two after the move drex was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. drex went through the treatments and did everything he could do to get well but the cancer got the best of him. I remember my husband and I going to Frederick to visit drex one last time. At the time his wife told us that he was so weak that he could only manage visits of no longer than an hour. However, when we arrived something inside of drex gave him enough energy that our originally scheduled one-hour visit was extended to three hours until he became so tired that we left. Even his Ann was amazed by how our visit had given him a new vitality.
Sadly that vitality was short-lived. One of his last pictures showed him with the family after his oldest daughter gave birth to his second grandchild. Six weeks after the birth, drex died. He was only in his mid-50’s.
When my marriage broke up and we were haggling over the separation, my husband wanted that painting that drex did. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was getting the house that we had shared together even though I would’ve loved to have kept that painting. I had foolishly told my husband that I was attending weekly Thursday night meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced because, at the time, I still hoped for a reconciliation and I hoped that he would be impressed by my efforts to improve myself. Unfortunately he took advantage of that knowledge to let himself into the home whenever I was out so he could take his things—including drex’s oil painting that hung in our living room. My husband was basically a coward throughout the whole separation and divorce in that he didn’t tell me he was unhappy until the night he left, he refused to see me in person or talk to me via the telephone, and he only communicated via email and text and that was when he demanded that I adhered to this separation schedule that existed in his head or else he would sue me. Naturally he only went to the house to get my stuff on the one night he knew I would not be home so he wouldn’t have to face me.
I was sad that I had nothing that drex had made until I was going through some clutter and I found the woodblock print he made for my husband and I as a greeting card. I found a block frame to put it in. This block frame is thick enough on the sides that it can stand up on its own. This print is now stored with the other Christmas ornaments and decorations in the attic and I take it down to display during the winter holiday season.
There are the occasional times when I still miss drex but I’m glad I have at least one thing to remember him by.