Artist's Lane

Will they cry for me after I’m gone?


We begin a new year and leave behind an old one. We lost friends in 2023. The thought makes me ponder as to what we’re doing these last years of our lives. Are we leaving behind anything of value? Will my family cry for me after I’m gone?

We’re leaving a house for them to sell. They can divide the proceeds. They’ll have a little money in their pockets for a brief moment, soon to be forgotten. Money in the bank? Yes, they might take a family cruise, laugh, play and poke fun of my Sweet Al’s stories. That’s fine, too.

We will all leave something behind. We’re not taking anything with us. A good name is valuable for people to remember us. It’s our legacy. 

Like the Harman name. 

It’s part of Pagosa’s history, celebrated every Fourth of July. Harman Park is a subdivision for others to build in. Researching the Upper Blanco Basin for my Western book series, it brought up the Harman name. They homesteaded that land around 1900.

A superhero in our own backyard, his comic strips still entertain us. No, not Superman or Spider-Man, but Red Ryder and Little Beaver. With his horse Thunder, Red lived on Painted Valley Ranch in the 1890s in the Blanco Basin of the San Juan mountain range. His Native American sidekick, Little Beaver, rode with Red on his horse, Papoose, and they fought the bad guys. 

The longest-running and most popular comic character of the Western genre appeared in movies, was on the radio, in comic strips, comic books and was used in mass-market retailing. He had a launch date of Nov. 6, 1938, and originally ran until Sept. 30, 1965.

We know Fred Harman by what he did. He was born Feb. 9, 1902, and died Jan. 2, 1982. After reading what it took to launch his art career, I would call him persistent. We can learn from him. He didn’t fall into success, he created success. He experienced many failures. He didn’t give up. As I read his bio, I was taken by how many creative ideas he tried before he found his niche in Red Ryder.

He was known as the finest brush and ink artist of the Western genre. Self-taught for dramatic perspective and authentic details, he was a pressman’s helper at The Kansas City Star, was employed at the Kansas City Film Ad Company and worked as an animator with Walt Disney. He formed a company with Disney that went broke within a year.

Harman left a good name behind. Yes, we all leave behind who we are. I believe building relationships with family members is the most important thing we can do. I’m reminded of Elaine Hyde’s funeral. Her grandchildren meant so much to her and she meant the world to them. All her grandchildren cried over her.

I said then to my Sweet Al at Elaine’s funeral service, “I want to have touched my grandchildren’s lives in a way they will cry when I’m gone. I don’t remember crying for my grandparents. I didn’t have a relationship with them. I don’t remember laughing and enjoying them. They were important to me only because they were grandparents. Period.”

At Janet Sorenson’s funeral, I watched one of her grandchildren cry and cry. His mother consoled him through the whole service. Janet built relationships with her children. She meant so much to her family. Even today, when we meet her children in the store, they have tears on their heart.

What are we doing to develop relationships with our own family members? We are all getting older. I don’t want them to see us as a burden where they feel like they have to spend time with us, and endure the hardship when they have to take care of us.

I don’t want them to cope with me. I want them to enjoy me. Is that too much to ask? I want them to find wisdom in my words, an ear that will listen and understand what they’re going through. Have I built that safe meeting place where they eagerly run to me and know they can be themselves?

 My grandson called this week and said, “You and I read the book and talked about the ‘Boys in the Boat.’ My wife and I would like to take you to Durango to see the movie.”

Wow! They really want to be with me? I felt like Sally Fields at the Oscars with her unforgettable speech. Surprised, she cried out, “They like me. They really, really like me.”

I jumped at the chance to be with my grandson. I know we’ll discuss the movie in a deeper way. He and I have built a strong relationship over the years. We talk to each other from a deep place in our hearts.

Final brushstroke: I want to be enjoyable to my children so they don’t see my Sweet Al and me as a burden. I want them to know more about us, listen to our stories, glean from our faith in God and find us fun to be with. A strong relationship with each of my family members is what I want to leave behind. I believe it will give them an anchor to hold firm and know who they are and where they come from.

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Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.