Wednesday, November 27, 2013


My dad loved cashews and pecans.  Mixed nuts were fine, deluxe mixed nuts were better, but a whole container of cashews or pecans was heaven on earth to him.  When we were kids, my brothers and I knew that if there was a can of cashews in the cabinet, we could only sneak a few handfuls or we'd be in trouble.  

It was completely normal for dad to eat a small can of cashews in one or two sittings.  You know the kind of eating where you know you should stop but it just tastes so good?  I'm sure you have a binge food too.  In fact, there's a great story about my dad eating lots of pecans that I'm sure I shouldn't tell on the internets.  You'll have to ask me in person for that one.

Cashews differed from pecans in that pecan trees were native to our yard.  My parents were wise enough to plant several pecan trees many years ago and those trees have been kindly delivering their produce every winter that I can remember.  Mom has giant bags of pecans in her freezers and she is a pro at oven roasting them.  Essentially, pecans were free.  Cashews were pricey.  After all us hungry kids moved out, dad was able to store and eat his cashews in peace.  Mom started buying the double sized cans and placing them on shelves higher than the grand kids could reach.

About a month after my dad died I was at my mom's and we were talking.  Before I left she reached for the unopened can of cashews in the picture above and pushed them toward me.  She told me that she had just bought them before dad went to the hospital and he never got a chance to open them.  She knew I loved them too and wanted me to have them.  To be clear, she intended for me to eat them.  She was very matter-of-fact about it.  Here is a can of cashews, Doug likes cashews, therefore Doug should eat these cashews.

But I can't open them.  

I couldn't open them a year and a half ago and I can't open them now.  I know that's pretty dumb and G and I get cracked up thinking about what my dad would say about it.  He'd tell me to eat them.  He'd tell me to eat them all in one sitting and enjoy every bite.  He'd probably tell me I was an idiot for not eating such a large can of deliciousness before now.  He probably laughs at me every time I look at the can without opening it.  And if the can ever disappears I'll know that he finally found a way to come back and enjoy those cashews.

So maybe I'm just weird.  I don't know if other people would do the same thing, but somehow that can has become important.  Too important to open.  Now that this particular image has become so closely associated with my dad and his passing, I think about cashews differently.  I still eat them, just not this can.  And when I do eat them, I consider my dad and remember his zeal for eating cashews.  I remember sitting in the living room watching TV with him.  I remember his laugh.

As a human, maybe I'm odd.  But for me as an artist, this is how everyday images can become charged with meaning and can become ingredients for drawings and sculptures.  The cashew now has at least two different meanings and since I've noticed that, the image may begin to make an appearance in my sketchbook.  But that can is staying in the cabinet.  Unopened.

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