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  • Writer's pictureBrian Thibodeau

The Past Lives of My Father

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

There’s an empowerment that comes with knowing what propelled us into this world. In buddhist terms we are all connected. And like throwing a stone into a pond, there is a ripple effect to every creation and action on the earth.

I grew up watching my dad as an artist do his thing. I have never known a truer artist. On Sunday mornings sitting in the church pews, he would be peeling the crusted paint away from his finger nail beds. His hands were overly wrinkled for a man of his age. As such, he never could seem to excavate all of the residual paint.

In his old age he has become even more prolific, raw, and irreverent than ever in his creative process. Politicians. Hypocrites. Moralists. Gluttons. The disgust he feels towards his subject matter is transparent and accusing.

His genius is evident.

It was soon after I came to this realization, that my father was indeed the most authentic artist I have ever known or even studied, when I recognized him.

I was googling the google-web one day, although I do not recall the exact search term. I think it had something to do with “art studios” or “artist work space.” When suddenly I scrolled right past him. My father. I scrolled back up immediately and clicked.

“Photo of Claude Monet.”

Enlarge image.


Obviously we all know the work of Monet. Those messy lily pads facilitated by the onset of cataracts. The distorted goldfish imprisoned in a glass bowl surrounded by leafy plants. In fact my dad had cheap framed posters of both in his apartment at one point. (It was the bullshit art posters that everyone hung up–social status being not defined by original artwork, but by how elaborate and expensive the frame was.) But, I had never seenMonet. And thus, I had no idea Monet was my dad’s doppelgänger.

Right click.


Continue scrolling.

Hold up!

There he was again. My dad. But this time as a young man. I had seen high school portraits of my dad, and this was definitely him in the 60s.


“Photo of Edgar Degas.”

Do what?

You know the artist. You‘ve seen those impressionistic ballerinas. How was this possible? Two doppelgängers of artistic and historical importance? It was all too clear. I mean, my dad’s second wife owned a dance studio for God’s sake!

These weren’t doppelgängers at all.

Monet: 1840–1926.

Degas: 1834–1917.

I don’t know how he lived two past lives at once. But he did.

This was my father. In some way. In his past life*.


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