Have you ever suddenly been hit with a memory that either made you laugh out loud, smile, or cause tears to well up in your eyes and your heart to ache? I experienced the latter yesterday. It was caused by an 11 year old photo.
I’ve been going through lots of boxes of my Mom’s photographs. The pictures are from 65 years of marriage and include Mom and Dad’s six kids, 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. When I say “lots,” it’s only because I don’t think I can correctly type in a word that covers “lots” times a ba-jillion!
I was on the third to last box when I picked up a photo, then stopped to look at it more closely. This picture was different. Boringly different, actually. It was taken in front of my home in Indianola in September of 2010. There’s my neighbor’s home across the street, I can see the ageratum I always planted in the round flower bed near the driveway, and my grass is turning a yellowish-brown, probably because of lack of rain.
Dad’s standing by his car dressed in khaki slacks and a long sleeved shirt, partially rolled up. He’s got his summer hat on his head – he never ventured outside without a hat for protection from the sun on his bald head. Scattered around him are three red plastic gas cans. He’s looking straight at the camera. I’m sure Mom probably just yelled his name and he looked up as she snapped the shot.
The picture and memories immediately flooded not only my mind, but my eyes. Blinking furiously was no good. Tears were coming, so I just sat there, let them fall, and cried. My Dad was a Mr. Fix-it and was always looking out for his six “treasure” as he called his kids. In my case, there was no fix for a broken heart but Dad was determined to help his newly widowed daughter by at least doing my mowing and trimming.
Well, he got ‘er done, as they say. My yard looked…horrible! He missed a few spots mowing the grass. He used the weed-whacker liberally. Too liberally. He whacked, to put it bluntly, the hell out of the edge of the sidewalks, the grass around trees, their bark, and anything growing near my flowers that he thought ought not to!
When Mom and I pointed out a few things teasingly, he told me the blade in the mower probably needed to be sharpened and he’d do that the next time. When I went to the garden and gathered up some stalks of flowers that had suffered a whacking fate, he just said they were pretty. He never again showed up to take over a job for me, but he always asked what he could do to help. I would just say everything was fine.
The sad truth, we later found out much later, was that it was his mind that prevented him from being able to do something as simple as mow in a straight line. It just hadn’t stopped his love. Looking at the photograph and remembering this occasion, I realized that Mom and I had probably witnessed one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s. More red flags appeared from time to time and the six of us kids and Mom eventually began saying the word Alzheimer’s to each other after his doctor confirmed it. And that me cry some more.
But if there are tears brought on by a memory, there are surely more memories, right? In my case, thankfully, the majority are of laughter and fun times. Dad lived another five years. During most of that time, he enjoyed partying, taking his family out for his and Mom’s anniversary dinners, and having one of my brothers drive Dad and Mom to their annual winter vacation spot in Florida and then back home to Iowa. He loved jokes. He adored his grandchildren and great-grandchilden.
He took my future husband out to his garage the first time Dave and Dad met, just to talk to him and make sure Dave was good enough for his daughter. (He was!) Dad and Mom walked me down the “aisle” when I got married in 2014 and danced at my wedding. A month before he died in 2016, he held my first published book in his hands. He couldn’t read it, and he couldn’t speak much by then, but he looked at my name on the cover, looked up at me and smiled – a big proud smile!
So I think it’s certainly true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not only words, but emotions, feelings, and precious, precious memories. Thanks, Dad. Thanks for the memories!