On Inspiration and Posterity

by David Armand

My family, some close friends and I went to Tickfaw State Park today. The park is located in Springfield, Louisiana, and has some of the finest nature trails around, with some great views of the Louisiana wildlife and their habitats. The park also features a Nature Center, which is an indoor exhibit that houses reptiles, interactive learning centers, and stuffed replicas of some of the wildlife that can be found here in Louisiana.

After I walked around for a while, I decided to leave with the rest of the group, but as I was walking toward the exit, I happened to glance over at a display case featuring two woodcarvings of grayish brown ducks.  I walked over to look more closely at them, and I was stunned to see that my late grandfather had made these. The display was called “Pintail Pair.”  I was moved nearly to tears to see my grandfather’s name, Edward Alba, on the gold plaque in front of the two wonderful ducks, which were intricately carved and painted to an almost perfect realism. You could see his careful brushstrokes and etchings and the care and patience put into the decoys’ making: I remember watching my grandfather in his workshop as a young boy and how the wood smelled as he whittled away at it with a knife and a woodburning tool. How he could turn two blocks of wood into something like this is astounding.
alba 001

(click to enlarge)

And now here was his artwork, keeping his spirit alive, and it was as if I could literally feel his presence there with me. It was so unexpected, like running into an old friend, or better yet a long lost relative.  I went outside and grabbed my wife and kids to show them, then excitedly went to talk to the folks behind the information desk to see if they knew anything about the display. They said it had been there since 1999, four years before my grandfather had passed away. I never even heard him mention this, such was his humble nature and spirit.

He had been the president of the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers Association in the late 70s and early 80s, and he was quite highly-regarded for his talents (one of his watercolors is actually on the cover of my first book), but I was still just so thrilled to see his work on display in such a public place. The feeling I had the first time I ever saw one of my own books on the shelf in a local bookstore pales in comparison to seeing this. It was such an honor, for I loved my grandfather so much: he was like a father to me, especially during my early childhood, which was a very difficult time in my life.

alba 002(click to enlarge)

I showed the decoys to my wife’s friend Rachel and her mother, then borrowed their camera to take a couple of pictures. (I later went back to the Nature Center on our way out of the park and used my wife’s camera to take the pictures that are seen here.) I looked down at my son and daughter (who never got to meet my beloved grandfather) and thought about how his work is one of the things that will one day make him alive for them (even though they are a bit too young to appreciate it now). I then started thinking about the work we all do, and what we leave behind, what makes us immortal. And it’s not just our physical work, the things we make, but it’s the love we pass on to others, our memories: that’s our legacy. Some of us do it through the things we make, others through our actions and our relationships: Both are equally important.

I know I’m far from being a perfect person: a perfect man, husband or father, but the little contributions I can make (whether that be stories, inspiration, or love) is what will last long after I’m gone. I hope that one day my children and my children’s grandchildren even will have something of me in their hearts because of what I’ve done while I was here on Earth. At the end of the day, that’s what it is that I really work for. And that’s what we should all work for.