Center for Spiritual Care

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Xaque Gruber
Where David Went: Reflections by a Son

Watercolors and mixed media
March 5-29, 2021
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Xaque Gruber

Where David Went: Reflections by a Son

             In October 2015, after 13 years of living/working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, I received a distressing, life-changing phone call from my mother in Vero Beach. She suddenly, and desperately, needed help with my father.

            “I can’t do it alone,” she said.

            So, on December 20, 2015, after leaving my fulltime job, I took a one- way flight to Florida, having no idea how long I’d be in the Sunshine State. I placed everything on hold to put my parents first as they always put me first. You only get one chance to be with your parents at the end of their life.

            My father, David Paul Gruber, seemed mostly fine in the summer of 2015, but by autumn of that year, he had changed. Alzheimer’s Disease struck him quickly and the decline was rapid. Over the course of the next 30 months, I lived in Vero Beach overseeing his medical and personal needs until his sudden death in Spring 2018. 

            After my father’s funeral services, I felt inspired to create a few drawings of him, which opened up something in me. The drawings felt like tiny fragments of something much larger. The experience I had of being with Dad in his final years and the unique challenges of helping someone with Alzheimer’s Disease felt like rich subject matter to tackle through art. The idea of this series was born.

            The 30 different art pieces represent the 30 months I was in service to my father. Each piece reflects a different aspect of my experience during his decline.

            I have never attempted a conceptual art series on this level before. I felt liberated by not giving myself rules as to how to make this series, which took shape piece by piece in a variety of art mediums. After each piece, I’d have no idea what I’d make next -- much like my final 30 months with Dad, which was full of unknowns. 

            I never thought my father’s life would end like it did. In 2000, he was named #1 Business Leader in Massachusetts, which made headlines in the Boston Globe. By the end of 2016, he was living in an Alzheimer’s home in Vero Beach, unable to function, nearly forgotten, with almost nobody visiting him. 

            Losing Dad to Alzheimer’s was actually three deaths. The first was the worst. The loss of the man still living in his own home: gone went his humor, talents, personality, knowledge of the world, vocabulary, patience, sense of others, and short-term memory. The second death was placing him in the Alzheimer’s Home as there was no way he could continue living in his own home for fear of injury to himself or others. That was a harrowing adjustment. The third death being death itself, where the nightmare comes to its finale, and presents new problems. 

            I hope the public draws their own meanings from these varied pieces. It doesn’t matter if you know who I am or who my father was in order to connect with these images. Joni Mitchell once said, “I want the listener to reflect on their own life, not my life, when they listen to my songs,” and that’s how I feel.

            Despite the bleakness of this disease, I purposefully kept these pieces reflecting a lightness; a beautiful and ethereal mystery of life, which is why I chose watercolor as my primary medium. After all, we ARE watercolor. We are 60% water and 40% color. And even though watercolor is the oldest of our paint mediums, it is the most misunderstood, again, like people. 

            During these 30 months, in my father’s darkest days, I was his light. I made his meals tasty, his movie viewing fun, his music listening delightful, and his everyday life as safe as possible. Some say I was a caregiver. I say I was being a son.

            I chose the title “Where David Went” because I wanted something open-ended and poetic that wasn’t specifically about disease or mired in a depressing tone. David is the birth name of both my father and me -- so the title encompasses both of us:

            Where I went.

            Where he went. 

            Where I went with him. 

            Where I went because of him. 

            The places where we went…


         Where David Went.