I am generally a private person when it comes to family since there’s always a great deal of sentimentality and intimacy involved. But with Thanksgiving a few days away, I’m feeling the need to share, or over-share a personal story. Be warned: it is not the cheeriest.
My father’s health has been in steady decline for some time now, and it recently took a turn for the worse. He had to undergo an emergency heart procedure, the kind where the odds aren’t great. And I only got to hear the news minutes after he entered surgery, and over the phone.
He pulled through okay, but it seems this is a temporary fix. It’s only a matter of time before... well, before another procedure saves his life again or doesn’t.
And all the while- both after hearing the news and now- all I can think about are the photos I have, or better yet the photos I don’t have of him. A 20 year gap in images, at least. There’s a knot in my chest as I type this because I know that even remedying this now, means capturing a man who is ill, who is dying.
I don’t have a second chance to photograph my father fixing the car or doing other mundane things. I can’t make a picture of how he looked when he’d drive his insomniac daughter to and from Jersey every night to put me to sleep. I can’t capture the half smirk he’d make when he was trying to be angry with me over teenage shenanigans that reminded him of his own mischievous boyhood.
I won’t have an opportunity to take photos that don’t involve pill bottles, machines, or doctors.
My oldest daughter last saw her Grandpa when she was 1. My youngest, just 5 months old, has never met him. He lives in Florida, I live in New York. I run a business where I am the only full-time employee (and I love being hands-on) and I run a household where my husband and girls rely on me for all things A to Z. So more and more, it looks as though I may not get the opportunity to even capture those. Thanksgiving didn’t pan out, but maybe Christmas? New Year? I just don’t know...
As profoundly as all that sits with me, I’ve discovered that I’m repeating the same mistake.
I photograph people for a living. I capture first loves to first steps. I photograph my husband and girls every second I get, even if it means an iPhone is the only tool at hand. There are no shortage of travel pictures and friends on my hard drive. But somehow, I’m almost nowhere to be found.
The point is this: Make Pictures (and print them!). Take good ones. Take bad ones. The bad ones are sometimes the best. Take selfies. Take phone pictures. Take professional pictures. Take pictures on a Monday while eating dinner, because that dinner will be a precious memory down the road. Take pictures when you feel pretty, or ugly, or sick, or healthy, or funny, or sad,,, take them. Because those pictures are a record of your life and those moments won’t happen again.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for time with my family near and far. And I am grateful for pictures. I leave you with a perfectly imperfect gem of my mom & dad circa long-before-I-was-born.