I have started collecting the family photos I’ve shared through this blog and posted them on Pinterest. It’s a nice visual way to view some of the memories I’ve covered on the blog.
Family Photos on Pinterest
I put up the photos randomly, and viewing the board really gives one a sense of the roller coaster ride we all are on as we navigate our way through our lives. I can see Dad as a hopeful, handsome young man, as a loving father and as a sad, broken soul losing his battle with Alzheimer’s. All of those memories, all of those emotions in less than 20 photos. It really strikes home how photos tell the stories of our lives so viscerally. I think words help fill in those blanks that the photos can’t cover, so both are equally important.
I’ll be adding more to the board as I go along. If you have a board of family photos on Pinterest, let me know, I’d love to check it out. I am fascinated by old family photos whether they are of my own family or of total strangers!
The Memories Project has made me realize that it’s all of the small memories, the everyday happenings, that often have the most meaning in one’s life. I was reminded of this again last night when I was talking to my mom. She’s still lamenting that she will never get to sleep next to Dad again, and snuggle up to his warm body. Memories are so important, but recalling a particular Christmas or summer vacation can’t give my mom what she needs most right now, which is simple companionship, the warmth of another living human being.
It’s a good life lesson. As a society, we spend so much time and effort trying to catch all of these special moments, the birthdays, anniversaries and family vacations. We take photos, videos, blog about them, post stories on Facebook and updates on Twitter. And that’s not a bad thing. What I hear from other bloggers and what I’ve experienced myself is that we are missing vital pieces of our family’s story, whether it’s a photograph that has no date or names on the back of it, or a letter that’s missing a page. With all of the electronic archiving that goes on in our lives now, I’m guessing it will be virtually impossible to lose record of those big moments in your life.
I tried hard over the last year of my father’s life to remember the details of each awkward, cryptic conversation I had with him, because I feared each one might be the last. But now, what’s important to me is the memory of holding my Dad’s hand at the care center and later at the hospital, and feeling him squeeze back. No words were necessary to convey the feelings and emotions being exchanged.
Those smaller moments that you don’t feel are worth recording right now? That may be exactly what you end up missing down the road. So try to appreciate both the ordinary and special moments with your loved ones.
A family photo from March 2008 illustrates the beginning of my dad’s mental decline. There is a vacancy in his eyes, as if he’s not quite there with us on the couch, even though he’s gripping my hand tightly.
Dad most likely started showing symptoms of dementia in late 2007. It’s difficult to pinpoint dementia’s starting point, because often the symptoms at first are vague and not of concern until you step back to look at the bigger picture. He seemed more forgetful, conversations were a bit more awkward, but for the most part, he was still there.
I remember this photo clearly. Dad’s driving days were numbered, and we had just returned from a stressful, harrowing ride into town. We went to dinner and he was still able to order his meal and pay the bill at this time. Soon, my mom would have to place all orders and pay for them. Dad almost ran off the road as we were turning into the condo community my parents called home.
I was leaving the next day and wanted to take a couple of photos. Dad still had his bulky jacket on, a sign he was about to go outside for a smoke. At the time, I had no idea that this photo would be so revealing. It was the beginning of long, painful journey as my dad’s mind was destroyed by disease. We were still a family unit, but one of our members was vanishing, slowly but surely.