A filmmaker friend of mine,
David Petersen, made an award-winning feature documentary entitled If
You Lived Here, Youd Be Home Now, which profiled the painter
Jack Lewis and his impact on the community of Bridgeville, Delaware, where
he and his wife Dorothy made their home. In early 2002, David made
an introduction and I went to visit Jack and Dorothy in York, Maine, where
they have relocated in order to be nearer to their children. Dorothy,
a 17-year cancer survivor, is a former artist as well.
Jack and Dorothy met in
New Guinea, where they were both stationed during World War II.
They have two daughters.
Tell me about this
I was afraid of her, I
Oh, he was not.
Scared the life out of
Well, I was afraid I would
say something bad and indecent and I was very, very careful, Id
sit down very carefully. And then I learned that she was reading
some of the scorchiest kind of letters you ever heard of. She told
me that later on; that she was a censor, a base censor. And I was
so careful to say the right things, not knowing that she was on to just
about everything a GI could say.
Anyway. He said
to me, I want to get married. You know, most of the
guys did, after they got back from the war. Jack said to me, I
want to get married. And I said, well, thats nice.
Whom did you want to marry? And he said, well, you,
if you want to. But otherwise, I do have another
girl that I might speak to. He just wanted to get married,
you know? But so many of the boys did. Because they were tired
of all this Army stuff, and being away from home and I think they wanted
to establish a home, and get kind of settled and all.
So nothing was said that
night, that was it. And the next night, he came over again and I
just said to him, did you mean what you said last night?
And he said, yes, I did. I didnt ask him anything
about the other girl. (She laughs.) So
I said, well, I think Id like to get married, too.
So he said, fine. So we were engaged.
Did you have the same
reasons that youre assigning to him, about wanting to settle down?
You know what? I
think so, yes. I had had this other boyfriend I was getting sort
of serious about, and he really wasnt. And I broke that off,
and yeah. I think I wanted to settle down and get married, and Jack
and I were such good friends, and
I dont know. It never
had been any really wild romance; but we knew we liked each other.
Hes an artist.
Hes not a very organized person.
Well that has been a little
a thorn in the normal kind of marriage; because ours is not
a normal kind of marriage. Because an artist doesnt make a
very dependable kind of parent. I was going off to paint as soon
as that last day of school hit, and that isnt a very nice thing
for a father to do.
I encouraged him to do
it. I wanted him to go away.
You wanted him to go
Well, yeah, and do his painting
if he had stayed home, hed
have been fussing. So I just said go on
Sometimes I think a good
marriage needs to have a challenge to make it or break it. I think
that many of the arguments are casual bits of offended vanity; but the
deeper love and ties of a marriage come at the deeper trials. I
think Dorothys cancer has caused me to try to overlook my shortcomings,
which I have many of, and it looks like Im having a losing battle
with it; and I keep remembering how dearly I love
her, and how trivial my objections are. And
I usually am a little late at realizing this and I have to come back and
give her a kiss or something like that to try and get back among her good
You talked about how
you'd nearly split. You'd had an actual physical fight.
We had such a bad time
that we went to a psychiatrist. And it was really good. He
asked us heaps of questions and told us, first of all, that he was the
sort of man that if he felt a couple were terrible together, and they
shouldnt be together, hed never hesitate to say go ahead
and divorce. Get this over with.
But actually, he talked
with us, and listened to our different feelings about different things,
our likes and dislikes; he said, well, I think its not only
a good marriage, I think its one of the best Ive ever known.
He said, your likes and dislikes are so much the same, and
we have the same tastes in practically everything. Music, literature,
and a point of view about politics and, you know, all that stuff.
And you know, it gave us a nice little feeling. To have someone
say that, that he thought that we had not only a good marriage, but one
of the best hed ever seen.
Lemme throw this in, too.
I think that you have kind of a milquetoast kind of marriage, where things
are so even, and nothingits not a good (Dorothy
laughs.)I really do think youve got to have life
in a marriage. And it may be hard, but thats part of it.
And I kinda think some marriages may break up with
Yeah, thats what
my wife is just saying, they break up because theyre bored.
That would seem to me the waybut some good marriages are really
knock-down, drag-out things.
You said early on in
this conversation about your secret being that you dont hold anything
I think thats pretty
much true, yeah. I dont think we sulk. I really dont.
Is the marriage more
of a partnership, or a competition?
Oh, its a bit of
I think that we need another
discussion to talk about whether I really think artists should get married.
I really suppose that
Im an old-fashioned person. And I can hardly get in step with
the modern way of life. But I see men very happily pushing children
around, I think thats a pretty good thing. They love their
babies, I know of men in the homes; this would have been unheard of when
I was young. Its just there are conditions completely changing
around and there is nothing said about it. This, teaching the philosophy
is not saying anything about this. What is going to be the solution
of it is a thing you can be concerned about.
Im an old-fashioned
person, and I resent women doing all kinds of men things. And my
girls are all mad at me because of that, but I cant help that.
I notice that men, a lot of times, dont seem to be bothered by it.
And it makesI guess its just because Im old-fashioned.
My girls dont like the fact that I act so man-dominated; but thats
the way I am
Well, they think its
too bad for you.
Yeah, Im out of
it. It would have been, really, easier for me to be an artist without
women in my life, but I would not have lasted more than fifteen years
or so. I get a good meal, my wifes a wonderful cook.
She tolerates my rampages, and so Im getting in condition with this.
And I suppose
Hes getting there
I suppose thats
what men are going to do
and women, on their side, will please try
to be a little patient with the men.
can I say? He thinks hes getting there, and
only 89. So hes got a long way to go.
Let me just say this.
If I didnt find Jacks opinions, most of them, a little bit
ridiculous, and funnyso that, really, Im afraid I laugh at
most of em. I cant do anything else. I mean,
to me they just seem to utterly ridiculous. Buttheyre
his, let him have em. I dont care.
Im saying nothing,
I hear that.
Im saying nothing.
I hear your silence.
Jack forgets what day
we were married! He forgets my birthday, too. Whats
my birthday, darling?
Oh, come on. You
think hes kidding. Hes not. My birthdays
(Looking out the window.)
Our cardinal is back.
Oh, the real bright one!
He doesnt go too
We do enjoy watching the
birds. One thing, I love this little house. I love the silences,
I love a little house.
Our little house is part
of marriage in your book, too.