When I create a new character, I get fully wrapped up in the story. I'll be talking to this lump of clay about who I think he should be and listening while he tells me who he really is.
All the while, there she stood at the back of my studio, reminding me that there was another story to tell. Someday, when I had learned enough, I would finally be ready to tell her story.
Then came the shortness of breath. Then came the tightness in my chest. Then came doctors - so many doctors - and oxygen tanks and stints and endless time to sit and stare at the incomplete woman in my studio while I breathed air from a cannula hooked over my ears.
Medical experts gave me just 2 years to live. "Get your affairs in order, Mikey." At that time I was surrounded with unfinished characters. So, in a burst of energy, the kind a dying man finds from deep inside, I finished about a dozen sculptures. But my lady, my love, I could not find her story even then.
In 2009, I left Colorado for a lower altitude. And what do you know? I didn't die. Under the care of new physicians, I got my strength back bit by bit. I created a few more characters - including a Mexican Revolutionary series inspired from my Texas roots. Then, about a year ago, the tightness in my chest returned. Waves of fatigue blurred by days while heaving for breath.
As my 80th birthday neared, my doctors told me I'd need to undergo a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy
(a heart-lung operation). If there was a chance of dying on the table, I knew I had one more thing to accomplish. So I came back to Colorado. There she was - still in my studio, still waiting for me to get my act together, as women often do . So I finally did.
Prairie Rose will be revealed on my 80th Birthday. She's not the one love of my life - she is all of them. She tells a thousand stories. My flawed hands made her - the weathered hands of an old man remembering all my loves, all my adventures, all my romances and broken hearts. She is the best I could do. And I am damned proud.