My dad was a memory keeper, even if he didn’t know it. He was a photographer, not professionally, but as a hobby. He kept those old school albums that were really old fashion scrapbooks. He even collaged a lot of his photos. So when I pulled out his photos one night, I honestly thought it was going to be hard to look at them because he passed away two years ago, and just looking at the world the way he saw it, I really thought it was going to affect me more–I guess in a sad way–but that’s not what happened.
I looked through albums upon albums of photos of me, my family and my extended family (close family friends) and with every turn I smiled and laughed, sometimes having to run to my mom or brother just to show them a shot from our past that I found so great. Some photos caught me off guard because they were so beautifully taken, even if what was photographed was so ordinary. Everyone and everything from my childhood was captured by my dad’s camera. Me on my favorite swings in the park, all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, my dad’s friends who were always staples in my life, extra aunts and uncles even if we weren’t blood. Family gatherings and trips, cookouts and vacations. Random bits of my life that when thinking about it, I had forgotten that happened.
I was a happy child. It seems so weird for me to say this because I feel so lost now as a young adult. But if the photos are proof of anything, I was really happy. I had a great childhood. It’s interesting how bits of me now were present then. I found this photo from my second birthday. I was sitting on the floor with my cousin who is exactly one year, one month and one day older than me, and we both are playing with musical instruments; he, a mini piano toy, and me, a toy guitar. It made me smile and laugh so hard because both of us now in our twenties, are musicians playing piano and guitar respectively. It seems so insane how we just knew what we wanted at age 2 and 3! It’s so amazing.
What strikes me so hard though is how much of my dad I see in myself. I was told that as a young child, I was daddy’s girl. I suppose, developmentally, that makes sense as little girls do tend to look up to their fathers a lot. As a teenager though, I clashed a lot with my dad. He was just so difficult to talk to and he just didn’t understand me. Those years really strained our relationship and I would always tell people that I don’t have a very good relationship with my dad. It was automatic me saying that, even though he was always there, always around. Because we hardly spoke to each other after while unless we were arguing, it was like we just tolerated each other. I was young though; I just ignored him. Of course it changed when he got sick with a rare blood cancer. I still felt so disconnected to him, but I just tried to make him feel comfortable at all times. If he said something to me I tried to respond in a way that wouldn’t make either of us angry at each other. I indulged in what he liked to do, even if it inconvenienced me. I watched Yankees baseball with him, fetched him water or an ice pack when he needed it. If he needed a pillow to elevate his swollen feet, I got it for him and propped up his feet for him too. I wasn’t in school then. I had just graduated from Uni, so it was me and him in the house for a good portion of his illness.
I guess it’s natural for you to act that way when someone’s sick. Honestly, I just wanted to make him as comfortable as possible so that we wouldn’t constantly hear him complaining, which just drove me up the wall when he did. It’s hard for me now, because looking back at that short time, I just seemed so indifferent to him. I guess I didn’t really think he would die.
After going abroad for a summer, I was really ready to come home and just talk to him normally about the things I saw and all the music I heard that I brought home for him that I knew he would love. It’s so strange what going away from your world into a different culture’s world can do to change your perspective on life. But I was really ready to make that change, especially with my dad.
I was cheated out of it, of course. Life does that to you sometimes. But something that my mom said to me a few months after he passed, really touched me. She told me that my dad said to her in the hospital that he really enjoyed spending time with me at home like he had been. That we were really starting to connect again and that made him happy. At the time, I really didn’t see it that way and that made me feel guilty, because I was just getting by. I had to deal with that for awhile, but I’ve since come to terms with it and am grateful that he saw it that way.
So looking at all of his photos, I see where I get my passion for documenting my life from. His albums remind me of my scrapbooks, but with less embellishments, less journaling. I’m the one who carries the camera around during family gatherings and trips, taking photos of everything, even the pets. I’m the one who’s barely in the photos now, because I’m behind the lens. And it just seems so easy to fall into that place, like I was supposed to fill that hole.
It’s just so amazing to see my life through his eyes. He captured the candidness and innocence. I can definitely feel his love there just looking at all of these photos. They’re thousands of bits of him and I’m so glad that out of all the things he left us, he left us with memories.