I’m just gonna jump in, here. If you’re reading this post, it’s extremely likely that you know that Arthur passed away at the end of January. If you were fortunate enough to know him, then you know that writing a flowery little passage about his life would really not be sincere to his candidness and sincerity.
In the week preceding Arthur’s memorial service, I was asked if I’d like to join the lineup of speakers. It was decided that having a student speak would give voice to the effect that the Jaffe Center has had at FAU, and that there was probably no student more fit for the task. I’ve been giving tours, supporting the studios, coordinating events, and assisting Arthur at JCBA for almost three years now, so nerves aside, I agreed completely. One of Arthur’s greatest gifts to me was convincing me that I’m a very capable public speaker (he used to sit in on my early tours and shower me with compliments and advice once the patrons had gone), so I figured it would be a pretty appropriate move.
Allow me to address that, in case you haven’t seen the memorial: As a student, as an artist, as a lover of art, the Jaffe Center has changed my life. Having the opportunity to handle so many real art objects on a daily basis would change anyone’s life. Being asked to analyze and present them would make any person that much wiser. Being around to work out some of the kinks for our artists has helped me to work out my own. Every minute spent aiding Arthur taught me as much as it helped him. I can’t imagine that any other student job could have provided me with so much professional insight and confidence.
On some level, I regret not sharing a bunch of stories at the memorial service instead of all of that.
It might have been nice to talk about the time that nervous and newly-employed me attempted to relieve him of his coffee cup, and how in passing it from his hand to mine, the mug and contents leapt out at the wall over the sink, in which it landed upright and completely unharmed, leaving me to wonder if I might be a real-life Carrie White, and fearing the scene Stephen King might write for me if I got fired. Arthur patted my arm and asked me for another half-cup of black coffee, because evidently, he hadn’t even been done drinking it, and shortly thereafter, he began taking his coffee in paper cups.
Or maybe I’d have chosen the story of taking him and his dear friend Ezzat all the way to Miami to see the Perez Art Museum. He fell totally in love with Ai Wei Wei, something that many people my age are too closed-minded to do, and insisted we see the entire exhibition before breaking for lunch.
For the first time in my two or three years of knowing him, that day, I watched Arthur eat something which was not dessert. I had occasionally seen evidence of a cheese stick, or found one warm and forgotten in his office, but on this day, the man ordered a caesar salad, which we were all disappointed to find the museum’s chef treated as a vehicle for exactly one fat anchovy. I joined them for dinner as well, and you can bet your bottom dollar that after eating half of his fish/green beans/potatoes, he custom-ordered a simple, generously-portioned, off-the-menu, and completely perfect dessert for each of us. It absolutely involved ice cream.
I could have warmly recounted any incidents of Arthur teaching me all of the things about Jewish holidays and hebrew pronunciation that I couldn’t afford to have learned in Hebrew school like other nice Jewish girls had. He often told me that there are other ways to pursue a bat mitzvah, and that generally, with the support of one’s family and the right mentors, a person finds few limits. He wanted to know everything about my family and how well I got along with them. He wanted to be sure that I valued them, and habitually, Arthur would ask me about my grandfather. How was his health, how often did I see him, how had he influenced me, what did he do to stay sharp? I had all the right answers to all of these questions, but being asked them, I was certainly more motivated to keep it that way.
On the night of Arthur’s passing, I was at my mother’s house, hosting my grandfather’s eightieth birthday party, and entertaining all of his closest friends – all people who’d watched me grow up, and who occupied leading roles in his life’s stories. They gossiped and bickered and reflected long past my bedtime, sipping on scotch and merlot, nibbling on diabetic-friendly desserts (I will never know how Arthur managed to avoid that ailment.) I hugged my grandfather goodbye and told him I loved him, and saw him with as much light in his eyes as he might have had holding one of my childhood drawings or attending my high school graduation. My ride home that night was filled with warm and grateful thoughts, and I remember thinking that Arthur would be very pleased with me if I could remember to tell him about it when I saw him next. That’s where the closure is, for me. It’s only faintly an Arthur story, I suppose, but as stories go, I think it’s pretty good, and as you may have at this point surmised, the man wanted nothing more than to leave us with more than a few very good stories to move us.