"Where David Went"
Reflections by a Son
Center for Spiritual Care,
Vero Beach, Florida
March 5 - 25, 2021
Conceptual Art Series by Xaque Gruber
In October 2015, after 13 years of working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, I received a life-changing phone call from my mother in Vero Beach, Florida. She suddenly and desperately needed help with my father.
“I can’t do it alone,” she said.
So, on December 20, 2015, I took a one way flight to Florida, having no idea how long I’d be in the Sunshine State. I placed everything on hold to put my parents first as they always put me first. You only get one chance to be with your parents at the end of their life.
My father, David Paul Gruber, seemed fine in the summer of 2015, but by autumn of that year, he had changed. Alzheimer’s Disease struck him quickly and the decline was rapid. Over the course of the next 30 months, I lived in Vero Beach overseeing his medical/personal needs until his sudden death in Spring 2018.
After my father’s funeral, I was inspired to create a few drawings of him, which opened something up in me. The drawings felt like tiny fragments of something much larger, and so began this series. The unique challenges of helping my father through his decline with Alzheimer’s was rich subject matter to tackle through art.
The 30 art pieces represent the 30 months that I was in service to my father. Each piece reflecting a different aspect of my experience. I liberated myself by not adhering to any rules as to how to make this series, which took shape piece by piece in a variety of mediums. After each piece, I’d have no idea what I’d make next - much like my final 30 months with Dad, which was full of unknowns.
I never could've imagined my father’s life would end like it did. In 2000, he was named #1 Business Leader in Massachusetts, making headlines in the Boston Globe. By the end of 2016, he was the youngest person (by many years) living in an Alzheimer’s home in Vero Beach, unable to function, nearly forgotten, with almost nobody visiting him.
Losing Dad to Alzheimer’s was actually three deaths. The first was the worst. The loss of the man still living in his own home. Gone went his humor, talents, personality, knowledge of the world, vocabulary, patience, sense of others, and short term memory. The second death was placing him in the Alzheimer’s Home as there was no way he could continue living in his own home for fear of injury to himself or others. That was a harrowing adjustment. The third death being death itself, where the nightmare comes to its finale, and presents still new problems.
Despite the bleakness of this disease, I kept these pieces light to chronicle the beautiful and ethereal mysteries of life. This is why I chose watercolor as my primary medium. After all, we ARE watercolor. We are 60% water and 40% color. And even though watercolor is the oldest of our paint mediums, it is the most misunderstood, like people.
During these 30 months, I was the light in my father’s darkest days. I made his meals tasty, his movie viewing fun, his music listening delightful, and his everyday life as safe as possible. Some say I was a caregiver. I say I was being a son.