Double amputee reconnected with art he painted as boy in hospital 52 years ago
Published Friday, December 16, 2016 5:25PM EST Last Updated Friday, December 16, 2016 6:58PM EST
An Ottawa man got an early Christmas gift he thought he would never see again.
A painting he did as a young boy half a century ago after losing both arms in a horrible accident.
The painting came from a long way away and a long time ago.
It was discovered on Kijiji and has brought back a flood of memories for Peter Muhl, both joyous and painful.
62-year-old Peter Muhl is incredibly adept with his prosthetics; as he hooks a delicate Christmas ornament and helps his wife Jocelyne place it carefully on the tree.
Muhl has had 52 years to adjust to life without arms, after losing them when he was 10 years old.
“In 1964,” recalls Muhl, “I climbed up one of those hydroelectric poles with a buddy and touched the wires. Big mistake. I was electrocuted with about 2400 volts.”
Muhl's arms were literally blown off. He underwent 14 operations, spent 9 months in the Montreal Children's hospital and six more months in rehab.
As a morale booster, he was asked to take part in a Christmas card contest.
“I was using my mouth to paint with watercolors and I won first prize,” he says, remembering that he was told about his win as he was being wheeled out of the operating room after yet another surgery.
“The story is,” Muhl continues, “that one of the paintings disappears. It vanishes.”
Fast forward half a century later. Peter and Jocelyne's daughter is getting married. His nephew, Pierre-Shawn Turcotte, googles his name to find his address and up pops a weird ad.
“I saw an announcement on Kijiji talking about this rare painting by this 11-year old-boy, who had painted it with his teeth, named Peter.”
Turcotte finds out from his mother, Peter’s sister, that little boy from 1964 is actually his uncle and the painting is one he did in the hospital.
The painting is up for sale for $350 at the Tyme Antiques and Collectibles store in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The owners, David Underhill and Phil Robichaud had bought it at a local auction years earlier.
“It was Christmassy,” Robichaud said in a phone conversation from Fredericton, “and we love Christmas. And just to know the story behind it, it was great.”
Turcotte paid full price for the painting.
“It probably has more value to the family than the Mona Lisa could add,” says Marcotte, from his business in Montreal, “I'm grateful for that, it's heartwarming.”
Turcotte had it sent to his aunt and uncle just in time for Christmas.
“Now we can share this with our kids and grandchildren,” says Jocelyne Charron-Muhl, who admits she would have paid far more than $350 for the painting.
“Memories came flooding back after 52 years,” Muhl says when he saw the painting a couple of days ago. “Mostly good, I try to think of only the good ones.”
Muhl is an incredibly positive man who clearly enjoys life to the fullest.
“I'm proud of (that boy from 1964),” he says, recalling his younger self, “I look back at myself and I’m proud of what I accomplished. Facing what you do, you have to put your best foot forward and accept the challenge. And I did.”
The painting now hangs in the couple’s dining room, all ready for Christmas dinner with the family.
“Is it straight?” asks Jocelyne as she hangs it up.”
“It's straight,” answers Peter, “and it belongs there and will be part of every Christmas from now on.”