While taking pictures for Easter I ran out of space on the memory card in the camera. I should explain that the camera was my father’s, given to me after his death two years ago today. A pack of additional memory cards were shoved in his camera case but I had never bothered to pull them out or look at the contents. I raced inside on Sunday, grabbed a card and put it in. It wasn’t until later, I realized that the last few years of his life were chronicled on this bit of plastic and metal. My brother, mother and father took a trip to the beach and it seems that the camera I now direct at food was beautifully directed at the sites of their week. I am sharing glimpses of that trip, through my father’s eyes, today.
My father always had balanced the gift of photography into his life. I remember discussing various f-stops at length (what the hell are they? I don’t remember now!). I remember peering through the camera while he slowly directed my hands at the various controls. I never grew terribly interested in photography. I took pictures on vacations and for projects in school, but did not realize the skill and technique until I decided it might be fun to blog (ha!).
My father was always aware of current events and never failed to incorporate them into teachable moments for my brother and I. I doubt many pages of the newspaper were missed in his daily readings. In fact, one of my most vivid memories of him was waking up to the smell of a pot of coffee brewing and a lit cigarette and hearing the soft sounds of the newspaper pages flipping. To this day, the combined smell of coffee and cigarettes transports me back to my childhood bedroom instantly. It feels like I can simply walk down those stairs and see his face hidden behind the headlines.
One of my favorite memories of my father was a time that he had a bad day at work. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember how upset he was about it. That night, after my parents went to bed, I sneaked downstairs and slipped a note in his lunchbox wishing him a better day and reminding him that I loved him. My father was apparently surprised by the note and decided that two could play this game. Always one with a good sense of humor, I would often open my science book to a note reading, “Gotcha!” or my dinner during dance class would have a smiley face note inside.
It’s of course impossible to share all the important memories of my father in this format. You needed to sit with him to hear the passion in his voice, the strength of his character, the power of his personality. He had a contagious laugh, one that could send me rolling on the floor in response. My parents’ combined gift is that of care and compassion for the people they love. There are few people that have not been touched by their acts of kindness. I learned from example that caring for your community is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. Vegetables from their garden have always find their way to neighbors kitchens. Family members in need have always had a car to borrow, a loving face at the doctor’s office, or a check for groceries. My mother and father were at every dance recital, every band competition, and every award ceremony. In fact, I remember one band concert my dad had to miss because of work. He insisted that my mother use a tape recorder to record the concert so he could listen when he got home. I have the best kind of parents.
So today I leave you with a picture that always brings a painful smile to my face. My father battled cancer painfully for a short while. But all his personality never faded. A short while before he died, he had my brother take this picture and send it out to the family with the message, “Have a nice day!”