I cried, but I was also incredibly inspired. Inspired in a way I hadn't been in a while. A couple days later, I made it a point to take my camera to my parent's home, and take pictures differently.
Out of respect for my Dad, I hadn't really taken "real" photos of him for some time. After his stroke 6 years ago, his body and his personality were completely transformed. He spent 8 months in a rehab facility, learning to do everything all over. A year later, he fell and shattered his hip, requiring another stay in an extended care facility. Not an easy pill to swallow for a former marathon runner and fitness fanatic. I'd be angry, too. When his mother suffered 10 years with Alzheimer's, he spoke about how he never would want to go out like that. Watching her struggle was so painful for him, and he didn't wish that on anyone. So with dignity in mind, I'm always careful photographing him.
His stroke also changed his personality. Growing up, he was the most positive, motivational person in my life. Our educational options were, "What college are you attending?" He knew education was the key to the foundation of any adult life, and preached about it. He told us we could do anything if we put our mind to it. And my sisters and I believed him. As with most strokes, the brain damage resulted in a drastic personality shift. He is able to be pleasant, but for the most part, is only so for short time periods. Small things upset him greatly. So sad sometimes. I miss that man.
He hates having his picture taken. I got my love of photography from him. We're used to being behind the lens, not in front. Usually, the hand in front of his face accompanies a tongue sticking out of his mouth and a groan.
My mom and I constantly nag at him to keep his feet up. They're always swollen. It is so painful for him to just walk. But he isn't a good patient. He does whatever he wants, when he wants. When he does comply, it's a big deal. I told him I'd stop taking pictures if he put them up. (I lied.)
He misses using a straight razor. The little things are sometimes the things you miss the most, he says. I get that.
Always within reach are the remote, several Western books, a napkin, and his glasses. He keeps his radio, the newspaper, his shoes, and earphones nearby as well.
He and my mom are both home-bound because of health issues. They live in the house we grew up in, a mile from my home now. I love being so close to them. I see them almost daily.
My parents enjoy driving the other nuts. They get bored and get under the other's skin on a regular basis. Sometimes it is sad. Sometimes it is annoying. Most all the time, it is comical to see one of them geeked up about zinging the other one on purpose. What can I say...we're twisted like that.
Dad, with our son, Griffin. This is the type of picture I used to take. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I like this shot quite a lot. But I'm not going to ignore the other stuff anymore. The chair, the walker, the real details. Wishing things were different isn't going to change what really exists. I have been so focused on telling our kids what my father was like growing up, simply because I didn't want them to think my Dad was this mean, bitter old guy who swears all them all the time (which quite honestly,is an accurate description of who he is now--despite the smile on his face in the photo.) My focusing on the past hasn't allowed me to be fully present with him TODAY.
For what it is worth, I hope someone else hears that today.
Here is the online version of the book. Worth the 10 minutes to read, for sure.
Thank you, Tina. I love you for sharing this!
Enjoy your day...