Rena Gibeau’s “gotten right”

Rena sent us her story on Monday, Dec 21. She had been working on it for a while.

“Today, on my mother’s birthday, I finally finished my essay. A fitting way to celebrate her life.

From the moment I learned of the Love Letter To the World project, I wanted to be part of that global community. For my tattoo, I chose the phrase ‘gotten right’ to honor my parents, Richard and Arlene Gibeau, two people who have inspired me to become better every day.

I always said that my parents set the bar high, and the impact they made on the world around them was astounding. Modest and unassuming, they lived a life of servant leadership and dedicated their energies to making their community stronger. Intensely engaged, intelligent, and creative, they embraced all forms of the arts and worked tirelessly to make them available to everyone. The memories we created together are filled with a celebration of music, art, and dance.

Father was a brilliant writer and read voraciously. The walls of our home were lined with books on every topic, and as a family, we read together and recited poems as a matter of course. Father loved the outdoors, and delighted in planting trees, vegetables, and flowers to beautify our surroundings. In his senior years, he did not slow down a bit, serving as a trustee of our public library, laying the foundation for an award-winning library system.

Mother sparkled with humor and creativity, and could do anything she put her mind to. She inspired everyone around her with her excitement and appreciation for life. In her youth she danced professionally, and would burst into song spontaneously when the spirit moved her. She had her own unique and remarkable style. As a child, I remember watching her create gorgeous hats, and her sewing skills contributed to our wardrobes. As her children became more independent, she and my father became more involved in addressing the need for creating strong community arts programs. Through their vision, an empty Carnegie library building launched a new career as an arts center, and with Mother at the helm it became a jewel of our city, contributing to the success of many local artists. Even after she retired, she never stopped volunteering to bring art into unlikely places, and was an ardent advocate for local artists. She believed that ‘Art is for Everyone.’

In addition, these two wonderful people embraced everyone from everywhere, from all walks of life. They taught us to appreciate all cultures and truly believed that every man and woman was deserving of equal respect and opportunity. To spend time with them was to see the potential that lived within each person, and the promise of the arts to unite us.

I met Mr. Walker in 2007, when one of our fledgling writers at Covington’s Frank Duveneck Arts and Cultural Center’s Voices of Grace writing programs invited me to attend her award ceremony at Thomas More College in Northern Kentucky, where she was to be recognized for her achievements as a student writer. The event featured Mr. Walker as a speaker, and he reinvigorated my appreciation of poetry when he read some of his poems. Afterwards, I was inspired to approach him to tell him how much I appreciated his work, and in our conversation we discovered a common thread. Several years earlier, he had donated his time to teach writing workshops for youngsters at the Duveneck Center in a program coordinated by my mother. After our discussion, Mr. Walker offered to hold a writing workshop for adults at the Duveneck Center. Lovers of words, my parents and I decided to take this workshop together, a unique shared experience that is one of my fond memories of the later years with them.

It is utterly fitting that the poem by Frank X Walker, ‘Love Letta to de Worl’’ is at the core of this tattoo project. When I read the poem, I fell in love. It captured my heart and seemed to speak to the life’s work of my parents:

“Our own efforts to mimic your vistas are what we dare call art and dance, music and poetry, architecture and language, and love. It is the only thing we have ever gotten right.”

And did they ever!”

Rena Gibeau's "gotten right" (photograph by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova)

Rena Gibeau’s “gotten right” (photograph by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova)