my dad's mom died when he was fifteen.
my dad's sister was 8.
the lives that my dad and his sister endured because of this death, is a story in itself.
what i want to share with you today is what i learned from this life changing experience for my dad and aunt....and it has to do with a photograph.
growing up, my dad's mom, was always spoken of and thought of with the utmost love and reverence.
when we moved from pittsuburgh, to a tiny town, troutville, in 1983, my dad set out to make the attic of this new, old house of ours, his office.
our house sat in the middle of what i would describe as an amish town.
quite honestly, i thought that i had went to sleep and woken up as laura ingalls wilder.
the horse drawn buggies, the sled riding with our amish friends, the sound of horse hoofs on the pavement at 5am on sunday mornings, as they made their way to church...
oh, but again, that is another story.
back to my dad's office.
in this new old home of ours, the attic was completely, utterly, abandonly, unfinished.
wooden rafters, floor joints with exposed insulation laying between...
lights hung on cords then from hooks on the ceiling...dangling above the makeshift desk he made so he could do "the bills."
as a family of 7, living on only dad's extremely modest income of a loan officer, and my mom selling world book part time, i'm certain the job of doing the bills, and budgeting was another full time job...geez lousie...again, it's another story.
i'll take a big breath and get on with it...
i remember the smell....it was of exposed wood, insulation, my dad's aftershave, big sharpie markers and paper...i think.
we would knock on the door before we would enter and go up to his special place.
more often than not, i was chicken to go up there...there was the occasional bat, and mice when the hay field next door would get chopped down.
but even with those fears of critters, i was still drawn to visit him up there...i'd sit at his desk, perched on a red milk crate. his desk was a huge plywood board planted firmly on 2 sawhorses. i loved to sit there as he punched the numbers in his adding machine...hearing the swish clicking sound that it gave off as the numbers printed themselves out onto the roll of paper. i would sit there smelling (cautiously) those huge red and black sharpie markers that he marked everything with, and i would stare....at her.
it was a picture of my dad's mom, dorothy kwiatkowski muirhead. (her polish maiden name, Kwiatkowski, translated to flowers...so when she opened her own beauty salon, she went by dorothy flowers. there was still much criticism toward the polish at that time. )
my dad told me all of this, and i would take these moments in his own little sanctuary and stare at HER. the picture was an 8x10, lovingly framed, and sat full on center at his desk. remembering this image, i can only imagine the thrill the photographer had the moment his finger hit the shutter with her image. my grandmother's eyes, they were connected. her neck, long and lady like. her smile, perfectly peaceful - real. i know that this was dad's first and foremost earthly possession until the day he died - the treasured beautiful image of my movie star look alike grandmother, dorothy.
muh conversation resulted from this photograph, and from an early age, because i had this image of her, she became almost life like to me. and i know to him, in a sense, it kept her alive - he had her face...he had that precious image.
dad passed in 2006. he left a box of photographs. i can't seem to find the portrait that he had treasured so.
maybe he gave it to one of my siblings...or his sister...i don't know.
i have a lot of candids to look through yet.
candids of her dancing and smiling and laughing. all of which i treasure immensely.
but that perfect portrait - the one that memorialized her for me, the complete essence of who she was-seems to be lost.
i remember that portrait and what it meant to my dad...to me.
and i can't tell you how many times when i look through my viewfinder, after i have strategically placed my subject, and i turn to look at the pose - i see her. the connection, sincere smile, the unmatchable beauty.
THAT is what makes my heart jump when my finger hits my shutter.
the memory i am creating...for you. for those you love.
your connected beauty, your legacy, your portrait FOR ALL TIME, to leave for those who love.
my grandmother was not yet 40 when she passed through this world, onto the next.
and without sounding like gloom and doom, our days are not promised!
make and take this moment when it is here.
make plans for this date.