When you lose someone, the remnant of memories can be difficult to reconstruct.
Photo albums, home movies, funny stories and touching recollections are usually the best and only ways of remembering.
But I am the fortunate one.
Growing up, our family lived in many homes. On average, we never stayed in the same home but for a couple years or so before it was dolled up, decorated, built out and outlived for the ever clever, upwardly mobile and on the move Miller family. Friday night through Sunday night, weekends were projects to improve, expand and create a home that was truly a piece of art eventually sold to the highest bidder, moving us on to the next residence and a flow of new ideas and projects. As kids, we didn’t know any different. Weekends were made for maintaining our home and building things together. It was our fun. Our way of building a family.
Built-ins, barbecues, patio covers, flower beds and a host of uniquely-designed creations usually began as a sketched design on dad’s easel. His artistry went beyond the hundreds of canvasses to which he’d lay his brush nightly after a long day of work. He could take any idea and give it life and dimension that inspired us all. “Hey dad, I have an idea,” usually was a prompt for him to grab a pencil or marker and any writable surface nearby to join you in the adventure of making your own intangible a virtual reality. It was a thrill that we all had taken for granted back then. To sit with dad in one of these creative sessions at home or in the office was to learn a unique visual dialect in the language of his art.
School projects, science fair exhibits, scouting merit badge endeavors, homecoming floats…even campaign signs for our school politics…all were more than a few notches above the rest. We always won and the accolades were commonplace. Miller kids were the envy of the classroom project. Everyone wanted to be on our teams. But when you grow up with someone famous, you don’t know it. It’s just normal.
Being the son of someone famous has never really sunk in. Dad had private audiences with Elvis Presley on many an evening after his show to help him visualize some of his personal projects. Political leaders, superstars and virtually every Las Vegas resort and entertainer has called upon my dad at some point in their careers. His art hangs in galleries and homes worldwide. But I just knew him as dad and he never attempted to impress anyone. Funny but only now as he is facing his exit from this world and into a much better place are people realizing how truly accomplished he has been. And that includes me.
He always taught us to bring our ideas to life. Mine is done in words and prose. I can only paint my pictures with a pen or keyboard. My colors and textures are syntax and grammar with shades of wit and humor meticulously framed in borders of hope and mattes of inspiration. I create moods and lighting and beauty for others much like my dad did all his life. But even so, I will never be famous like my dad, but I will always be happy because of him and his fine art of being.
Many times as a young man I would watch him at his easel or table creating. I’ve lost track of how many times I silently admired the flow. His mind conceived an image which traveled down his arm, into his hand and out through his fingertips in one continuous movement of extraordinary creation and I always wondered if I might be blessed with such a gift.
But a painting, a drawing or a sculpture are mediums more powerful than my words could ever describe. And to a little boy’s heart, an elaborate landscape of molded colored mountains and tunnels and trees and buildings for a toy train set is a prize I have often remembered.
In our family home, the walls would go up first and I always wanted certain pieces in plain view. Some of his creations were the kinds into which I would stare for hours, scanning the sometimes hidden details he would include like the prize in a Cracker Jack box if you dug deep. They would transport me to a time and place we once traveled or a stream we once fished or a past American era about which he’d studied and more than once dreamed of living. During my rougher times even today, I can stare into a favorite piece and lose myself in his thoughts and dreams and again be at his side watching its creation as I did countless times as a boy. Those are moments that satisfy my soul yet have only recently come to fully appreciate.
We often think of fame as something afforded the stage, screen or simply, one who cleverly seeks it at the right time and place in history. That is not fame, that is celebrity. Fame’s roots necessarily run deeper with heart, meaning and lasting purpose. While celebrity shines for a moment, fame, like art, endures posthumously and forever influences.
So without brush or canvas, I hope to use my words and stories to bring joy, tranquility and light now and long after he is gone until we are reunited as a creative team once again. Until then, it’s just me and a really tough standard to live up to.
But dad, I promise to try.
I love you so much.