Grief, and a Ghost in Agrippa
Writing is a way for me to be at one with myself. When I am putting words to paper, the expression of intent is on many levels purer than the convolutions of speech. Speech, with it’s cavalcade of body cues and potentially misinterpreted emotion is a local phenomenon. The further away someone is from my little area of geographic and cultural upbringing, the least likely it is that my regional and cultural dialect will communicate.
Visual art, then, is something else entirely. It is a form where I do not need the specificity of communication that words require. Writing is the cure for my angry anxiety, but painting is the salve upon my grief. That being the case, it is no surprise then that I have spent the period of time between the notification of my father’s dire condition, and his subsequent passing in a matter of mere months, invested in my drawing and painting.
The thing is…my dad’s image keeps showing up in my doodles and sketches.
It is not just the picture of my dad eating popcorn, which was drawn while I was visiting him. That one is a snapshot of a memory of the time we ate kettle corn and watched Prometheus on a DVD in the week before Christmas 2012. We were hanging out about once a week then, and that DVD would have been a Christmas present except by then neither I, nor my niece were sure how long he would be able to sit up and watch a movie. It was the last movie we sat up and watched together – ever. My New Years my father’s days of sitting up and speaking were almost over. He died on January 3rd.
And now, my father is a ghost in Agrippa, the graphic novel I’m adapting from the short story or – more likely, like a comic book. It won’t be long enough to be a graphic novel. It will just be an illustrated short story. And somewhere in the middle of it, the ghost of my father will be everywhere, because I can’t seem to stop myself from accidentally sketching him, or from putting his tattoo on characters in the story (the way I put his tattoo on my shoulder blade).
“Agrippa” is a dystopic near-future tale that takes place in an unnamed industrialized nation very much like the United States. When foreign creditors demand that the nation repay its considerable international debt or face war it enacts the Dulcetta Reforms, ultra-restrictive laws establishing debtor’s prison, and causing a large number of people – many of them seniors – to go to jail or even face execution if not continuously working to pay off their personal debts to the government. Dr. Tine, an expert in geriatric medicine, is desperately searching for employment at the beginning of our tale, having lost her useful functioning in society as the elders she once treated were rounded up and hauled off to the prison camps. Things were so bad she didn’t think they could possibly get any worse. How very wrong she was.