A beloved artist put the final brushstroke on his masterpiece, a self-portrait, and then fell to the floor. His twelve sons mourned his death, celebrated his life and love and artistic contributions, but were divided over the quality of his final work.
The oldest liked the depiction of his father’s eyes, blue like his own. Another brother admired the seriousness etched into his father’s furrowed brow. The youngest, always feeling that his dad was harder on him than the others, stared wistfully at the edges of his father’s mouth where he was sure he detected the beginning of an approving smile. Each of the master’s twelve sons loved a section of the canvas but was indifferent to or even troubled by the rest.
So it was decided that the boys would cut their father’s image into smaller works. The oldest hung the eyes, sparkling like his own, beside the vanity in his bathroom. Another framed his father’s serious brow and nailed it to the wall of his study. The youngest folded up his father’s wry smile and kept it in his back pocket, pulling it out on especially hard days if his therapist was out of town or simply not returning his calls.
As each boy grew into a man so did each one’s love for his piece of the painting – as did each one’s dislike for the rest of it.
Each man built a museum for his slice of the face, commissioning the design skills of renowned artists and architects who greatly admired their father. The museums were so magnificent that visitors came from far and wide to ooh and ahh. The brothers, each afraid that his bit of the masterpiece would be destroyed by the crowds, locked the doors of their museums. And afraid that their museums might be destroyed as well, each brother circled his museum with fences topped by razor wire.
The crowds stood at the fences of the twelve museums day after day snapping photographs of the magnificent structures, unaware of the greater masterpiece divided among them; each fragment of face hidden away behind armed guards, stone and steal, and bullet proof glass.
The sons eventually had sons of their own. None of the grandsons were all that into art. One owned a security business. Another installed fences. Yet another trained attack dogs. A couple were brick layers. A few more were architects.
And not one of the grandsons knew he bore a striking resemblance to a great artist who died giving himself to his children.