In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Family

The other day my uncle Larry and his wife Nancy came for a short visit from their home in southern California. I hadn't seen either of them in a long time and it was fun to talk to them again. Whenever Larry comes back he always goes all out when preparing a meal for the family and this time was no exception. He cooked up a delicious prime rib, sweet potatoes, rice pilaf, and peas with green beans, and glazed carrots. It's probably hard to believe but it tasted even better then it looks in the pictures. I arrived at the perfect time since the food was almost ready to be removed from the oven and the wine was just beginning to be poured. It was fun to sit around the table eating and joking with family.

I'd brought my camera along to perhaps take a few pictures and after the meal it was decided that we'd take a family picture of everyone gathered around my grandfather. As I was setting up my camera and light I admit that I was feeling a little uneasy about the whole thing. I think everyone there knew, my grandfather included, that the main reason for taking the picture is because it would probably be the last time this group would ever be together. You see, his health has been declining lately and I don't think anyone has any illusions of him making a recovery from this one. It will be a nice picture to have but the whole thing felt a little awkward to me.

I normally bring a camera or two to family gatherings but I rarely take any pictures. When I really feel like taking pictures is when I can divorce myself from whatever activity is going on; but I guess when family gets together I feel like I'd rather just enjoy myself and be part of the action. I don't know why I'm that way but I guess I just am. I usually regret not taking pictures at family events but even that doesn't seem to be enough motivation for me to take them the next time.

However, about 3 or 4 years ago on Thanksgiving I pulled out a camera and took a few pictures. For the camera geeks that read this blog it was a Russian made Iskra 6X6 folder made, I believe, in the 60's. I bet the person who made it never would have guessed that in 40+ years it would find it's way to rural Iowa.

Anyway, I was having a good time taking pictures and everyone was in great spirits. Later in the evening when people were about ready to head home I noticed my grandfather sitting in his chair and holding the hand of my grandmother, who was standing next to him while carrying on a conversation with someone sitting at the table.

When I was growing up I don't remember seeing any such displays of affection; but now as they're getting older it's quite common to see them sitting close to each other and holding hands whenever they're near. I've noticed that with other elderly couples as well and it seems to be a common theme. It's kind of like everything goes full circle and I wonder if the feelings are similar to what they had when they first fell in love so many years ago; feelings that were perhaps lost or dulled a little in the middle of their lives, only to return again in old age. Instead of looking at someone through the dopey, love struck eyes of a teenager you look at them through wise, knowing eyes that see everything that's happened in the last 50+ years together and that also know what's likely to happen in the next few years.

I wonder if a 90 year old man/woman feels that same thing when they look at their husband/wife as they did when they were in their teens and their love was still new. That aching feeling when you realize how much that person means to you and the terrifying thought of what life would be like without them. I experienced those feelings in my early 20's and I'll consider myself very lucky if I can feel them again when Im 90.

I took a picture of my grandparents holding hands that night and I'm glad that I did. That night Leukemia and Alzheimer's were still a little ways off in the future and no one was thinking that perhaps this would be the last time they'd see their father or mother. Or that it might be the last time they could be next to each other, holding hands, surrounded by the family that they created.

1 comment:

Edith said...

Al You are very insightful. I know you will also find the right person and she will be one lucky woman.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.