I am dedicating this post to my dear late friend, Don McPhee.
I got to know him early on in my career at the post office around 1991.
All too sad, he died suddenly of a heart attack in October 2002. He was literally here one minute and gone the next.
It seemed that I cried for days, and I resolved to myself that I would try and think of him once a day.
Yes, he was that special.
He suffered his first heart attack in 1992. It had not been a kind year for him, and eventually all of his stressors took their toll.
Upon hearing of Don’s first heart attack I took a page from my Grandmother’s life’s lessons. I tried to write to him at least once a week, to ensure that he knew that his friends from work were thinking of him.
I had an assortment of stationary that I had hand penned a year earlier when I was studying calligraphy. It felt good to finally put all my cards and letters to good use.
These notes contained inspirational verses and quotes that I had collected through the years.
Among my favourites of these collected quotes were:
“We are each of us Angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
“Mailman, mailman don’t delay, do the rhumba all they way.”
When he finally returned to work, his large community of friends at the post office were very happy to have him and his zany jokes back again. I was always fond of the way he told his jokes. While telling them, he himself laughed so hard that he’d have to wipe the tears from his eyes. And that was before he even got to the punch line.
Don enjoyed taking his breaks and lunches sitting on the curb just outside the plant doors of where we worked. He always sat in the middle of his company of friends.
Over time, he befriended a seagull, one of many who kept sentry watch on the dozens of lamp posts/security cameras scattered around our vast post office parking lot.
Don named him Stanley and swore that he could tell him apart from all the other seagulls.
He and the seagull would always share Don’s lunch.
Now, I ask you…
Who befriends a seagull?
Well, to answer that will say again…
Yes… he really was that special.
Much to my surprise, the day after Don’s passing I received a telephone call from his sister.
She had called to tell me that Don had died.
I was a little confused as to why she had gone through the trouble of contacting me, as we had never met or had any other contact before.
She explained that as she and other family members were going through his things, they had found a large box containing all the cards and letters that I had sent him.
Had I really sent him that many?
After going through the letters, Don’s family decided that it would be the right thing to do to contact me and thus inform me of his passing just in case I didn’t know.
I was grateful of course.
His memorial service was the next day.
Upon entering the funeral home, I was directed to the family receiving line where I met his brothers, sister and mother. They welcomed me warmly and told me that Don had often spoke of me. I was moved to tears when they related that Don never referred to me by my name “Doris”, instead he always referred to me as “my friend Doris”.
The family then invited me towards several rooms that had been set up to celebrate his life. There were photo albums, personal cherished items and all sorts of memorabalia.
Imagine my surprise when I realized that among the items displayed were all the various cards and letters that I had sent him.
It seems that there were dozens and dozens.
Yes, I finally realized that I really did send him a lot of cards and letters.
And so, all these years later, I have taken it upon myself to paint a lovely rendering of Stanley the seagull. I had found many good ideas on Pinterest and found one in particular that I liked very much. It seemed to capture Stanley quite well.
First I sketched what I thought to be a decent rendering of a seagull. You would think that after having seen so many in the course of my lifetime, that this would have been an easy task.
A seagull has a particular look, menacing is the best way I can describe it. There is a look in the eye that tells you he’s just here for the food and nothing more.
You’ll never get any warm fuzzies from a seagull, that’s for sure.
After I had painted what I thought would suffice being a seagull, I prepared to do a wet on wet paint application. That’s when I wet the paper I am about to paint with clear water before applying wet paint to it.
I chose to do the background colour in a bluish grey.
I needed the paper to dry before I could proceed any further, so I went to shower in an effort to acknowledge that there were tasks other than watercolour painting that needed to be done on this day.
When I returned to my project, I was glad to see that everything had dried according to plan.
Now it was time to start painting the seagull.
This, in the end proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.
I spent a good part of the rest of the morning adjusting this and repainting that.
In fact, it was all I could to to recognize when enough was enough and it was time to call it quits and put my toys away. After all, you never know that you’ve overdone something until it’s too late.
And so, allow me to introduce to you Stanley the seagull.
I hope you like it…
I’m pretty sure that Don would have liked it too.