Walking in Dad's Footsteps

Author: Weston Haycock

Editor’s note: November is National Children’s Grief Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will feature stories from surviving children, grief professionals and TAPS staff to draw attention to the needs of grieving children, and how best to support them.

Jeffery Haycock's Artwork

When I was born, my father wanted to name me after one of his favorite artists. He and my mother argued between whether I would be named Leonardo, Fletcher or Harold Richard before they agreed to name me Weston — a compromise because it was not a common name and also not the name of a Renaissance painter. My father attended art school as a young man before enlisting in the Army. He truly was a man of the arts; he loved cooking, painting, sculpting, gardening, all of it. It’s somewhat ironic that his children were all born without any of his artistic talent. One look at my handwriting shows all you need to know about my lack of skill with a pen.

Despite my inability to create art, I still have a profound love for everything artistic. I always make a point to stop and look at street art wherever I am. It’s important to take in each opportunity to enjoy art here in Montana as there isn’t as much to enjoy as I would like. Last summer however, I had a unique opportunity to spend a few months working in Washington, D.C. with a summer internship on Capitol Hill. It was amazing to live in an area with so much art. The Hart Senate Office building where I worked had more art in its halls than I have ready access to in Montana. When I arrived, I made it my goal to visit every Smithsonian museum in the area. This sounds like an easy goal, but there are 21 museums to see. I only made it to 18 of them, but it was quite an experience at each one.

I felt very close to my father while I was exploring the arts of so many different cultures. I spent hours going through the National Museum of African Art and thinking about how much he would’ve enjoyed taking in such breathtaking patterns and colors. His paintings were always very bright and vibrant, and I knew in my heart he would enjoy the works of the foreign cultures. When I was at the Hirshhorn Museum I saw a lot of works that reminded me of my father’s paintings. He was a bizarre man and his art is very surreal. Some of his paintings scared me as a child, as they were often seemingly misshapen and full of energy. But I have a painting of his that hangs above my bed that really comforts me. It is a painting of a man in a box staring out at the light, and its calming colors and poignant message really speak to me. I feel closer to him, like I know him a little bit more because it gives me a glimpse of how he felt as a young man possessed by the need to express himself on canvas.

man in a box painting

My favorite museum was the Freer Gallery of Art, where the sculptures were breathtaking and I knew my father would be happy to know that I was being impressed by art from centuries ago. I have no memories of my dad so I can’t say first hand why he would’ve liked it, I just know based on his art and what I know of him that he would’ve loved to see me enjoy art myself.

The experience of working for the Senate over the summer was something I’ll never forget, but the time I spent outside of work was just as important to me. It was so fulfilling to get to take a walk in my father’s shoes as an artist through our nation’s capital. I know he would’ve loved to just stop and stare up at all the beautiful paintings and architecture that adorn those halls the way I did every day. I may not have picked up my father’s talents as an artist, but I certainly inherited his love for art and I can feel in my soul that at least I have that to enjoy with him. I’m no Picasso, but I am certainly capable of opening my heart and soul to the healing powers of the arts. And I can tell you this much—my heart is full and I felt closer to my father during my artistic excursions than I had in years. 

From the pen of...
Weston Haycock is a senior at Montana State University majoring in writing. He spent the summer as in intern on Capitol Hill, working on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He worked to support and enhance the same education benefits that allow him to attend college. He is a surviving son of Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Haycock, U.S. Army and Sr. Airman Nichole Haycock, U.S. Air Force Veteran. 

Photos courtesy of Weston Haycock