“The Poppy Field”
Today I said goodbye to a very dear friend and neighbour, Mr. Rodriguez.
At his funeral, I learned that his story is a precious one.
In 1957 he immigrated to Canada from Portugal with his wife, Lucinda, two small children and $500 in his pocket.
Although he didn’t speak English, it wasn’t long before he started his own company, Royal Cleaning Services. His hard work paid off, he sold it and opened Antonio’s Fish Market in downtown Toronto. After that, his love of gardening led him to a position as head gardener at Edwards Gardens. His final job was Supervisor of Maintenance with the City of Toronto.
I also learned that his motto in life was to go slowly and do it correctly. I guess that’s what helped him with his uncanny ability to fix things without any instructions or guides.
But something that I’ve seen and known about him for years is his deep love for his family, especially his wife. It has always stood out to me and that, I will never forget.
Two years ago she passed away after a long battle with dementia. With the help of his children, I watched him patiently care for her at home right up until the end. After her death, he created a heart-shaped flower bed in her memory just outside his front door. Watching him tend to it was one of the most tender and touching things I’ve ever seen.
I will also never forget his steady presence in my daily life. For the last five years or so he has always been there. Quietly observing the going on of our little street from his porch or from inside his garage. Like a faithful friend, I could always depend on him to have time for me, to greet me with a smile, wave or warm hello. He was never too busy. I miss him. I miss our daily interactions very much.
So you can understand why I’ve chosen the work of self-taught British artist, Gary Bunt as an expression of my feelings. I find that many of his paintings beautifully depict the comfort and friendship that comes from the presence of a quiet, solitary figure – something that I have come to know, cherish and am now missing terribly with the death of my dear friend and neighbour, Mr. Rodriguez.