I walked into an art & craft outlet yesterday. It instantly reminded me of him.
He was tall & lean,with a friendly smile, and had the most beautiful grey eyes.
He would sport a well-trimmed mustache & a classic ’80’s hairstyle with a little pigtail.He stood in front of the mirror everyday and would proudly check the length of it.
My grandmother would refer to it as a hippie’s pigtail and I dont think she was a fan of it.
I grew up around him in the same house & that’s where I began to learn and observe many of his talents.
He drew and painted with great ease, had an incredible zest for all sorts of crafts, and an exceptional eye for detail when designing or styling clothes.
I have met many talented individuals in my life, but none like him…My Uncle Karl…
While most people display remarkable talents in one or maybe two fields, he was a know it all…If it was anything creative, everyone in the family knew who to ask.
Most importantly he was entirely self-taught and his ability to imagine & create beautiful things out of nothing always inspired & baffled me.
The ’80s was a world with no phones, internet, or Google.
Literature around us was limited & school was the only source for new learning, yet there I was, always one step ahead when it came to the art department because of him.
I knew my colour combinations since he had already taught me, crafting anything new was easy for me to imagine & I always knew the kind of dress I wanted to wear.
At a very young age, I made it to the front and center of the main stage in school, not because I had any exceptional acting or singing talents, it was because casting me in a play meant that my uncle would ensure, I dressed as per the brief and made the whole show look grand.
He loved his craft so much, he would do it for free and most times even invest from his pocket, another thing that annoyed my grandmom.
She knew he was expectionally talented and didnt like people taking his kindness for granted. Uncle Karl on the other hand didnt care much for the money as long as he was doing what he liked.
With talent and passion like this, he became the harbinger of creativity in my life.
I was always looking forward to the days he would come home and make something new. I would happily cancel playtime to sit beside him and fidget with the glitter powder.
When he wasn’t looking, I’d apply some to my cheeks because when my friends or cousins saw it, it would mean that I worked on some fabulous project with him.
Every wedding season, the brides in my little town would flock to him with cut-outs from old international magazines and ask him to recreate the same wedding gown for their special day.
He would often look at the most beautiful white dress in the magazine and say to me, “When you get married, I will make you a pretty gown like this.”
He went on to add his ideas for making my wedding gown even more opulent like the 8-year-old me was getting married next month.
I would sit and listen to him with great fondness absorbing everything he spoke about dress materials, the necklines, the cuts and the tucks.
Later, I would repeat them to my mom like I knew everything about dresses. Thanks to Kalu (I fondly called My uncle Karl) Me and my sister were the best-dressed girls at Sunday Mass.
Christmas was a time to look forward to in the house & no matter what we all went through during the year, the first lit advent candle magically brought with it a whole lot of positivity.
We couldn’t buy the most expensive decorations, so Kalu made the most exquisite ones for his dear mother (My Nana). He loved her dearly and so did she. Their lives revolved around each other.
One X’ mas he built a sledge, a huge Santa along with reindeers and displayed it in our living room. People from all over the town came to admire it. I may have passed him a few pins, but boy! what a proud handyman I was.
My Uncle never married & lived with my nana all his life. When she passed away, all her children sobbed about her demise, but for Kalu it meant a little more. His life changed & so did he.
He left town as he couldn’t bear the loss and with him all his incredible ideas.
Today as I write these memories about him, he battles life and death.
He has been ill for a while now. I visited him a few months ago at the hospital, Kalu wasn’t the same person I saw last time.
He was weak & frail and could barely sit. It reminded me of how I would lose everyone I love someday. Human mortality does suck sometimes.
Had he been well today, he would have appreciated this art store, every brush, every colour, every canvas.
As I continue to stand in this store, I begin to imagine what it would be like to have him do all his creative things today. He would have a Facebook page, YouTube tutorials, and Instagram worthy pics every day.
He would be famous and get paid for his well-deserved craft. I feel sad realizing that this may never be possible and get upset that after all, he may never actually make my wedding dress too.
My thoughts as I stroll around the store, are to leave before I start crying & then I see this beautiful brown diary sitting upon a table, between a bunch of coloured markers, and decide to buy it.
I buy it to create the most artistic thing I probably know how to ‘Stories’ and dedicate the first story to my Uncle Karl.
His creativity always fuelled my curiosity as he is ‘The Real Artist’ for me.
God bless you Kalu.
Pic credit : Canva