Selling off the pieces, one by one

Jul 6, 2019 | 4 comments

“My grandfather brought this back from Bolivia in 1924. He was stationed down there, working for a mining company when he was young. He always spoke of South America with great fondness as being a very special place; ‘It is not the United States at all,’ he would say.”

I’m sitting in the courtyard of a good friend. Her home is one of the most comfortable I have been in for a very long time. The furniture is a history of American craftsmanship; the paintings, sculptures, and pottery the summation of three-generations devoted to the collection of Meso-American and South American artists. The breadth of mediums and prominence of the artists is impressive. The pottery collection is extraordinary for its volume, notable pieces, and master craftsmanship. However, the most revealing feature of her home is the century of family photographs that grace an entire wall and the bedside dressers. This is a home steeped in adherence to the founding principles of the past while reveling in artistic visions of the future.

And it all will soon be scattered in the wind.

A poor marriage clotted with grandiose dreams in the 2000s left her in financial ruin. The acrimonious divorce was subdued, the pain of heartbreak dulled by early in the afternoon glasses of Chardonnay followed by a TV dinner and martinis pouring well into the night.  It took her years to overcome her sorrow, but she did — with bravery, vigor, and determination. She rose from the grotto of despair and walked away.

Searching for a fresh place to call home; she found Cuenca.

During her first year here, she shed almost 50 pounds and gained a dozen friends. Workshops at IdiomArt, leisurely sipping coffee con leche in pretty cafes, and the occasional road trip around Ecuador with her pals became her routine, and the years slipped by, as soft as morning ash after an evening fire.

It came as a surprise to her then, just as it does for most.  She never really contemplated that the family she loved and friends she had come to love would one day pass on just as seamlessly as they had arrived.

Over time, the art workshops and cafe con leche became less frequent, staying at home more so. She never regained the weight, but she lost more and more friends until there were few left.

Now she is worried. It is possible that she will outlive her savings. Although she hopes to find a means to provide even a modest income, it is highly unlikely, for the tide of time has turned against her. The options are few.

She is forced to sell away three lifetimes of art in order to survive the last years of her life.

For some, what is of value is only the money to be made pawning the generations of fine art and the magnificent collection of pottery that graced her home and influenced her vision of the world for the entirety of her life. Of course, the photographs; parents, grandparents, and great grandparents posing to record a special moment will soon be discarded and forgotten. Perhaps a few of the picture frames will be of use to someone, but the memories will not.

The thoughtfully decorated home will slowly unravel around her.

This is not an uncommon tale; it is happening every day, but it need not be the only tale. Perhaps you have a forgotten relative, or one you once loved, who is facing a similar fate and needs your help.  I suggest you consider the wisdom of ages.

We are children twice. In youth we are dependent on the comfort of those who teach us love; in old age, we are dependent on the comfort and care offered by those we have loved for a lifetime.

What will remain for my friend is the smoke of memories. Her dashed hopes and fruitful dreams will linger long after her most treasured possessions are passed from her hands  into the hands of another.

Robert Bradley

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