Pop was clearly the coolest grandfather anyone could have. Who else could say that their grandpa was a racecar driver? Who else could say they launched flaming pumpkins into a backyard pond with a catapult built by their grandpa? Who else can say that their grandfather took them to a jazz club in the middle of no where in New Jersey late at night with the excuse of “maybe they have ice cream.”? No one else could. No one else had the Pop we did.
Pop always fostered my love for art. When trying to find something to paint over winter break, I found myself starting a painting, but not being able to get into it. Nothing was seeming right. But then, I came across a picture I took of Pop’s barn from late August- the first time I had been at his house since he passed that June. It was a gray day- there were spotty showers. We had headed down to the house to start up Moonglow, the Chevy Bel Air Hardtop he had built (also where the name of this blog comes from), in hopes of bringing it up to Lead East, the car show he had always gone to. In the instant the car started, there was a bright clearing in the sky. I snapped this photo with no thought, I just did. There was something so beautiful about this place- perhaps it was the fun we had there or maybe just the association it had to Pop. I’m glad I got this picture.
I began painting and everything needed to be perfect. Despite the pressure I felt to make this painting perfect, everything fell into place. It somehow ended up being the easiest thing I’ve done. Why did I choose to do it in black and white? I don’t know. It seemed right. Being someone who hates small intricacies, somehow, I found myself focusing on the smallest details, something Pop would do with his cars. For two weeks, I would work on this piece, taking it section by section. It’s a Wonderful Life played in the background. “I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!” The words that brought Pop to tears every year when he watched this movie. Like my cousin Erin had said, his eyes billowed with these tears because he knew he had a million dollars. His family was his million dollars. It was only natural that I would paint with this movie playing in the background- Pop’s legacy was my family’s million dollars.
Two weeks and countless hours later, the painting was done- it was Christmas Eve. Looking at the barn and the big trees, I could only feel Pop with me. Suddenly I could picture Pop sharing his ice cream with the dogs in the family. I picture Pop piling all of us, his grandkids, into Moonglow- no headlights, no seatbelts, just eight kids- to take us for a spin down the country roads. I could only picture Tony Feil, our Pop, sitting in the crowd at any performance or sporting event, tears in his eyes. I couldn’t help but think about the countless cards he had written to us, about how happy he was that I chose the college his mother had attended. This yard, this barn, this was all him. This was where he brought his family together. As much as every one of us would kill to have him back, the legacy he left is remarkable.
So, here’s to you, Pop. Thank you for always giving me the fuel to keep creating. Thank you for giving our family all you did and for always being at every event possible. Thank you for making everything fun and for teaching us to live life to the absolute fullest. Thank you for giving all of us endless support in everything we did. Thank you for being the incredible man you were. I hope this painting captures the beauty this place was for us, though nothing will ever do it justice. Pop, I hope you’re drinking a Rolling Rock, listening to good music, and racing up there.
We all miss and love you endlessly.