This past weekend, we made a quick family trip to buy frames. Dave is excited to add some pictures to his new office, as well as get the chance to price out a framing option for his favorite Grandma Moses print. While we were at it, I decided to switch out the old, cheap, too-traditional frame for one of my favorite possessions; my dad's photograph.
The picture was taken, as I have been told (and memory may or may not be an accurate thing; that happens a lot for me when it comes to my father), the morning that he returned to work after another round of cancer treatment. By the afternoon, he called home telling Mom that he had found another lump. It was only a matter of time before he was gone.
The original copy of this picture rotated throughout our childhood home as a plain, silent shrine. We were painfully aware that he was gone, but hardly spoke of it. So, there he sat. The one gentle reminder with a Mona Lisa smile and just enough youthfulness to make it burn a little more.
Over the years, I happened upon other photographs, mostly old family candids, that helped tell me a story of the man I hardly knew. Partly mischievous, partly serious, always so handsome. I carried one of the copies of his senior picture in my wallet as a teenager, even going so far as to tape it in my locker alongside a bittersweet shot of my sister and I sitting alongside him in "his chair," all in sweats, an enormous fruit basket in the foreground. Looking back, I realized how gray and gaunt he looked, and that it was just about the time he left for the hospital (which I faintly remember), never to return.
But, still, this photo was quite literally his personification.
I don't quite remember when, but my mother decided to have prints made and framed. Four; one for each of us. I'm sure she was apprehensive, worrying that we would all hate the reminder (much like when we received a very kind Christmas gift of all the old McCoy home movie footage on tape; there were plenty of tears that holiday season, but it was nice to see him in motion with our aunts and uncles, in living color). But, we were all deeply grateful to have our own piece of him.
That copy, in a couple of different Dollar Store frames over the years, has followed me to college and back, to my first apartment, to my first house; through family fights and deaths and marriages and babies. No matter my variance in moods or ups-and-downs with depression, it was a stalwart on-looker who always helped to pull me up by my boot straps. Not until I reflect on it now do I realize that, yes, Dad really did have an influence in my life over the years, though it was a very private, quiet one. I may not have any recollection of his personality or his voice or his opinions and views, but he has been there for me.
Of all my possessions, big and small, this image is the one thing that I would grab in a storm or fire or nuclear attack. (This, of course, does not include living things, which are actually family and not "possessions." Child and cats included. ;-)) There are other important things that I'd like to grab -- namely, my Katharine Hepburn autograph -- but if I couldn't, Dad would come.
So, as I stood before a row of frames in all their splendor, some plain and dignified, some with enough traditional curlicues for royalty, I found myself overwhelmed and fighting back tears. This frame needed to represent him, because the picture IS him. I finally landed on a couple of wooden options; one with dozens of rustic-looking coconut shell inserts and, finally, this one --
|Crappy cell picture. In crappy lighting.|
It's plain. It's a bit rustic. It has structure. It reminded me of Dad's younger days farming his family's land, his love of sports, and what I've heard about his methodically perfect way of doing projects (when he finally buckled down to do them). The frame just felt like "him", or at least as much as my basic shy-of-4-year-old memory could ascertain.
It's good to know he'll be "around" for Hadley to know, even in his minute way.