Family Photos

(Quick summary of what’s happened since I last posted. I’m now living in NC, in a rental house my mom was living in until two weeks ago, because she bought a house in the area, but her lease isn’t up on the rental until the end of August, so me and my cats are living here (with only a mattress, an armchair and a couple laundry baskets for furniture) until I find a job. Moving out was pretty stressful, but everything was more or less okay, and me and the cats are doing fine for the most part.)

This evening I went over to my mom’s house to just hang out with her (I’ve been feeling isolated because I don’t know anyone in the area besides her, she moved to the coast of NC a couple years ago, I grew up in the Triangle area), and we talked about this and that, she’d had kind of a rough day because her dog got out and ran off and got down in a ditch that was full of green slime so it wasn’t a lot of fun to try to catch her and then hose her off. She told me she’d gone through the big box of family photos that she had, and sorted through all the ones she had of my dad from when they were young and during their marriage, and put them aside to mail to him.

She asked if I wanted to see the photos she’d collected of him, and I said sure, so we pulled them out (she had them in a bag, waiting to be mailed to him) and we went through them and she told me when they were taken, who the other people in the picture were, or so on. There were a couple of him with me and my brothers, but she’d carefully made sure there weren’t any of him and her together, because his wife dislikes her. There were pictures of us on vacation, or of him cuddling one of our family dogs, a bunch of him graduating from medical school, some of his family (his younger sister’s college graduation, or visiting his parents), some of him as a young man. It was such a bittersweet experience, seeing pictures of him when I was a baby, or before I was born. Most of them were in a specific context, like his graduation, or a party with his medical school friends, or a trip with his parents. But there were a few, sprinkled in between these mundane memories, of just him, looking at the camera. Sometimes he was serious, sometimes he was smiling, sometimes he was dressed up, other times he was totally casual or even messy. My mother said “those are the ones I look at and remember who the man was that I loved. I wish he’d come back, not so I can be with him again, but because he was a good man who loved his family.” And I see it too. I look at those pictures of him and I see the man I called Papa, the man I played with as a child, who loved me unconditionally, who called me silly names and threw me into the pool as I squealed with delight. I miss him too.

I’ve already talked a bit about my relationship with my father. It was so strange, looking at the face of the man he used to be, before the gulf grew between us, before my parents split, back when we were a family and we were happy. Like my mother, I wish that man would come back. I really miss him.

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