Don’t Worry, Be Happy

My latest story-line has been generating a lot of reader mail. Some really amazing reader mail.

And I wanted to let everyone know that my dad is alive and well. Some people were worried that something was up. That this story was an indication that something terrible had happened. Yes and no.

Most of what is happening to Rip Sienna happened to my father back in 1996. October of 1996 to be exact. I was eight months into a new marriage when we got a phone call that dad bent over at work to pick up a dropped pen and almost passed out. So he went to the ER and they had him start a stress test and immediately admitted him to the ICU. Dad ended up having bypass surgery after his angioplasty and stent failed to do the job (scar tissue built up on the stent and re-closed the artery).

Two months later, dad’s at home and my mother dies unexpectedly. It was a real sucker-punch to the whole family. It devastated us. This was all before I ever drew the first PvP comic strip.

So this experience has been with me for sixteen years now. And while I has occurred to me to work through it via the strip, I never have until now really. I got through it, and I got comfortable not worrying bout the possibility of losing another parent. Until recently.

Five months ago, shortly after his visit here to Seattle (when we filmed his episode of the Kris and Scott Show), dad had a stroke. We got very lucky in that he was with someone when it happened and paramedics arrived within 10 minutes of being called. So his recovery has been swift and promising. Doctors expected a full recovery and everything indicates they’re right.

I’m in Dallas right now, visiting. Spending time with him at home. Yesterday Dad wanted to see Mission Impossible and he walked from the car to his seat and back afterwards…impressing us with his ability to forgo the cane he was using a month earlier. This is a man who in July could not use his left side at all and needed a nurse to move him from his bed into a wheelchair. Now he’s upset because “He doesn’t have his dance moves back yet.”

My father is the bravest man I know. Faced with this he has never lost his faith, humor or determination. He asked me recently if I had blogged about his stroke and I told him no. That I wanted to protect him and that I didn’t have his permission to talk about it nor was I planning to ask for it. He told me “You can talk about it. Tell them what happened and that I’m doing great.” Papa says hello.

Thank you to everyone who has written me this last week to express how this story has touched you personally. An artist can hope for no greater achievement than to connect with his audience. This story, these fears, are universal and innately human. We all experience them and struggle through them. Thank you for your stories and for your strength. Drawing these strips has been cathartic and has helped me work through a lot of self doubt and guilt.

I’m actually doing a horrible job. There’s so much I’m just not getting into these strips. Like the guilt I’m harboring over having moved away from my father. Or my brother. My poor sweet brother who wants to move to Seattle as well but remains behind to deal with the responsibility of being “Brent” in this situation. Or how I’m absolutely terrified to let go and breathe again, no matter how strong my dad gets. I’m just not good enough of a writer yet. I really should have waited another five years to tell this story.

But I needed to vent some pressure. I needed to express it artistically as best I could. So I’m shitting these out as they come to me.

I don’t know how to end this post, so I’ll do it messy and imperfectly. Like life.