Appreciating Life – Doug Brooks
I have met many fascinating people during my travels. None of the wonderful people I have interviewed so far hold a candle to Doug Brooks. This started out as a story about an artist. It turned into a story of how precious and unpredictable life can be. Most of us get a curve ball or two sent our way but Doug has surpassed his quota.
Doug and his wife, Lin always had artistic interests. In fact Doug reported to Lin in the art department of General Motors for many years. In the late 1980’s during one of their many cutbacks, GM decided to shut down the art department where Doug had done illustrating. As Doug so eloquently puts it, “they told me to go to the accounts payable department. I told them to go to hell.” It was that first curve ball that gave them the buyout package to finally open their own art studio. They purchased the old feed mill in Bethany, turned it into their art studio and started to live the dream. They eventually made their way to Bobcaygeon 10 years ago and that is where they are happily creating today in their home studio and gallery on Front Street.
Things were going exactly as planned when Doug was hit with horrible news in January of 2010. He had a cancerous brain tumour. They operated and then discovered bladder cancer as well. If that wasn’t bad enough, Doug experienced three strokes during treatment. Every time they had to operate they had to take him off blood thinners and the strokes soon followed.
As you watch Doug carving and painting since his strokes you see his very steady right hand doing all the work. He has lost the use of his left hand. That in itself is really impressive and shows his incredible talent. But what is even more impressive is that Doug is or rather was, left handed. Always looking on the sunny side Doug just cracks a few more jokes and shrugs off the fact he has had to completely re-teach himself how to paint, draw and carve with his right hand. He had a friend design a vice to hold the wood while he carves.
Doug is a wonderful painter in his own right. But what really grabs me are his incredible carvings. I don’t feel alone in my awe, for Doug has won numerous awards including first place in The World Carving Competition in Ocean City, Maryland. I have to say though that Doug possesses another skill that is just as sharp as his carving abilities. It is his sense of humour. The three of us are in stitches the entire time we meet in the workshop for this interview. The laughter never stops and neither does the twinkle fade in Doug’s eye. Watch him, this fellow never misses an opportunity for a quick one liner. Never!
Doug explains that when he was diagnosed with cancer his first reaction was, “why me?” He soon adjusted his entire outlook on life. He explains he is a very different person today because of it. “I appreciate life so much more now. I am up at 5 a.m. every morning to watch the sunrise in awe. I am cancer free right now and loving it. I am going to keep going till I can’t anymore.” He explains that he has a new found passion, it is the passion to stay alive. “ I thought I was a goner”.
Doug then explains how many people were misinformed. He was so gravely sick with such a hopeless prognosis that most people believed that he wouldn’t make it. They wrote him off. In fact many still think he did pass away some time ago. Lin tells me of several occasions when people have given her their condolences on the loss of her husband. Doug chuckles and steals a quote from, Mark Twain, “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”.
Doug, I know I am not alone in wishing you nothing but good health and happiness. The world needs more folk like Doug. Maybe that is why he is still here? During the darkest days of the illness the entire town of Bobcaygeon pulled together to have a benefit dance for Doug and Lin. The response was phenomenal and the money raised went a long way toward gas and parking bills for Lin driving back and forth to Kingston Hospital every day for 8 months. Doug said he never really had an opportunity to say “thank you” to everyone. This is the one time during our visit that he gets very serious. “I just want the opportunity to tell everyone how much that meant to Lin and me. I will never be able to express our gratitude”.
Doug gets great pleasure from teaching his craft to others. He believes he is still here today in part, to continue to teach and pass on his knowledge to others. He runs a variety of workshops out of his home studio. If his workshops are half as much fun as his interviews, sign me up! For further information please contact Doug and Lin Brooks at Brooks Studio, 223 Front Street West, Bobcaygeon, 705-738-9767, email email@example.com. As Doug puts it, “if we are home, we are open”.