Saturday, April 13, 2013

Family Post: Remembering Matthew

This is my brother Matthew's birthday. He was the youngest of seven children in my family, the fifth son. I was the first son, and Matt was 12 years younger than me. He's been dead now for ten years. Truth is he drank himself to death when he was 42 years old.

I found myself gravitating to some western art by Frederick Remington. Matt loved this kind of stuff, even though he was born after the family had moved away from the West. I like it too, and I really like this drawing. Matt looked just like this cowboy, with the long hair, drooping mustache, and steely gaze; but he preferred a black leather jacket and a black Stevie Ray Vaughn-style hat.

"Arizona Cowboy"

He was a big man, and worked construction until the day he died. He was rough and profane, and bossed various motley crews, and knew how to use his fists when necessary to assert and maintain his authority. He drank hard and partied hard, and went at life hell for leather. He was always dashing for something, and away from something.

"A Dash For the Timber"

Yet he had the eye and heart and skill of an artist, turning out intricately detailed pencil drawings. And when my daughters and their cousins were little girls he was their favorite uncle. They were drawn to him like bees to honey. He loved that, but was uncomfortable with it. He loved the family, but he distanced himself from us. He sought a safe refuge, but even in the wide open spaces of his own exile he could never find rest.


"The Scout: Friends Or Foes?" 

I think he would have loved this painting. Maybe he knew it. I imagine him looking at it with a mixture of fear and longing: fear of what the wolf reminds him of--the darkness forever stalking his troubled soul, and at the same time longing for what the wolf is. For the wolf in his kingdom of night is purely what Matt most wanted to be--and what I hope he is: free.

"Moonlight Wolf"


  1. A beautiful tribute on a hard day; I hope Matthew found freedom, too.