“You’d better bring them back” were the words my dad shouted at me as I was getting into my car with a stack of photos and one photo album.
“Maybe,” I thought as I waved to him.
I realized on my parents’ anniversary that no one knew where their wedding photos were. Their wedding was small, held in a chapel at the local Methodist church. My mom wore a dress which had a skirt that maybe hit mid-thigh if she stood right. My dad wore a three piece pint-striped suit with cuff-links and a red shirt with tie. I knew the exact picture I wanted to get my hands on, yet no matter what box I went through, I could not find it.
Maybe it is because I take so many photographs of family events, kid sporting events, even family dinners. The thought of photos being lost – of history being lost – shifted this desire to see the photo to a mission to find the photos – all of them.
I hit a point during the search where I just started grabbing photos. Old family photos of my mom’s family. Old family photos of my grandpa’s family. Photos that looked like they were on the verge of disintegrating. “What did you find?” my dad asked once. “Never you mind,” I told him.
The other day, I sat down and scanned in a chunk of the photos. I suspected the photo album I found was my grandpa’s personal photo album. When I scanned through the first set of photos, that was confirmed. I saw photos I had never seen before. I recognized my mom, dad, and grandparents. Then I hit a number of very old photos. I thought it was Grandma as a teenager. The handwriting looked familiar to me – she passed when I was in 5th grade, but I held onto a card she wrote to me for a long time so I knew her handwriting. I scanned in those photos – then I hit one where she had a look on her face – a look that was familiar to me.
Because that look is my look. My nose. My forehead. My smirk.
I knew it was her.
After my grandma passed, I had a love/hate relationship with seeing my grandpa. I loved him so very much. But there were times when I would show up, dressed a certain way, and he would look at me in a way where I knew he saw her and not me. Then he would realize it was me and not her, and the eyes would well up. I hated giving him that kind of pain.
Though, after seeing some of the very old photos of them together while they were dating?
I understood it. Even in the old photos, he looked at her a look that said, “how did I get so lucky?” No wonder why he missed her.
While looking at the photos of her as a teenager, I cried – cried she was gone – cried because I wish I had more time with her – cried because I wish I could have heard the stories that went with some of these photos.
I uploaded the photos onto a shared drive, sent my dad the link, then called him. I could tell he was having a crappy day when I answered. “Go to your computer quick, go into Facebook, and look at the link I just sent you.”
“Oh, my God!” he cried. Then he started laughing and crying at the same time.
“That photo,” he paused to laugh again, “that fucking photo of her in those rabbit ears.”
I forgot one of the photos was her mom wearing bunny ears for Halloween. Dad was 9 or 10 at the time.
“Where did you find these??!”
I reminded him of the stack of photos I stole. He didn’t know those were in there, but to be fair, neither did I. He went through all of the photos. Several times. And told me all of the stories. He told me how old he was. Where it was taken – down to the street address. He told me what was happening that day. He told me what happened to a car in the background. And I took notes.
“God, I’m glad you called with these. I have been having a lot of bad days lately. And this – this has pulled me out of it. Do you have more to scan or was this it?” he asked.
“I have more to scan. And there are some good ones in there too.”
“I can’t wait to see them,” then he paused. “I see some of these photos and realize that I’m older now than they ever were. I never would have imagined that I would see an age that they wouldn’t have.”
“Dad, you are not that old.”
“Oh, I don’t feel that old – I still think I’m the same age as some of those photos.”
Good. I’m glad to hear that. Because if I learned anything from this exercise, it is to try as hard as I can to capture all the stories I can.
My brother commented that DJ looks like her namesake, my grandma. She really does.
I found a photo of my grandpa pulling his pants up. Clearly my grandma took that one. My dad and I laughed at it.
I found a photo of my 17 year old Grandma sitting on a blanket holding 2 carpet beaters with a third in her lap. The grin on her face made me wonder what she was into. Another photo was her eating a cooking while holding in her other hand a carpet beater. The gleam in her eye – well, it made me giggle at what that could have meant. Another reason I wish I could have known her as a teenager and adult.