This photograph no longer exists in one piece due to an irrational decision on my part but I can still recall it quite vividly. The photograph was taken at my Grandparent’s house when I was about four years old. It’s quite simple, consisting only of my Grandpa and I. He sits in a large reclining chair in his living room in Stanton, Virginia. I sit happily on his knee looking up at him with a big grin on my face unaware of the camera only a few feet away from us while he smiles directly into the camera, a glare barely catching the bottom part of his glasses. The left edge of the photo shows half of an old lamp and wooden table with the two of us framed close to center and the right side of the photo fades into darkness.
The photographer is none other then my mother who never misses a moment to take a photo. This photograph means a lot to me because my Grandpa and I were very close. I remember being upon his knee many times. He used to give me his ice cream and call me “pug”. I love this photograph because I can see the happiness in both of our faces, mine full of wonder, and his full of content. I also love it because I am unconcerned with the camera that captures this purely innocent moment in time. I used to carry this photo around with me most of the time, kind of like a good luck charm. Naturally the photo is worn and rather beat up due to being folded and unfolded time after time. But now it sits in a safe place taped back together as best I could manage. I ripped the photo after my Grandpa’s funeral when I was seventeen. He was the first immediate family member of mine to die that I remember and it was my first funeral. I remember getting mad at myself for not being able to cry when my father told me the news. I was shocked, I’m not even sure if I responded to him. I didn’t cry until the two days when I went to his funeral in Virginia and saw the open casket. After I went back home I took the photo out of my back pocket and tore it out of anger and sorrow. I didn’t get to say goodbye and even worse, my mother didn’t, his own daughter. I don’t think the pain losing someone you love ever goes away but with time the pain dulls and you learn to move on.
I’m not sure whether I would have wanted to see him or not though. Over the two years leading up to his death, Alzheimer’s slowly took a hold of him and he could barely remember whom I was. I remember the first time he didn’t know my name; it broke my heart. If I would have been there and he didn’t remember me I don’t think I could have handled it. Minutes after destroying the photo I broke into tears and frantically searched for tape to fix my hasty mistake. Ever since then I have not been able to take the photo anywhere for fear of losing it for good.
When I look at the photo I can smell a Virginia summer’s night and picture me asleep next to my Grandpa on the swinging porch chair while he smokes and looks out into the dark. I wonder if he was ever looking for anything in particular or if he was simply looking. He had a great since of humor; he often told me jokes and would always talk about being a hooligan in his youth. The house seems so empty now when we visit my Grandmother and I know it takes a toll on her. I can’t fathom being married to someone for 56 years and then losing them. My mother grew up in that house and my brother and I have shared good memories there as well. I feel like I go back in time when I visit her in Stanton.
My Grandpa always smoked for as long as I can remember and he had no health complications due to smoking. This always amazed me because on the opposite hand smoking killed my dad’s mom. He also had dentures because he liked candy to much as a kid and boy did ever love it when he was old. He had trouble walking in the last of his years which sadly left him in his recliner most of the time but every now and again we would go to the park to feed the ducks or listen to the band in the summer evening. He loved to go on drives and get out of the house. My mom said he used to love to fish as well, he taught me how to fly fish when I was about ten but I wasn’t any good at it. Almost all of my memories with him are good ones and I am thankful for that.
This photo doesn’t help me know my Grandpa or tell me anything about him or make me remember him better. It does something more then that. It starts a chain reaction of vivid memories and smells that play like a dream in my mind. This photo helps me remember my Grandpa the way I want to remember him before he couldn’t remember me. Before he started deteriorating and having to watch helplessly, unable to do anything about it. He was a kind and gentle man. He never brought any harm to anything be it plant, animal, or human. He provided for his family and was the best husband/dad/grandfather he could be. In a way I think it’s silly that I place so much importance upon this tiny piece of ripped paper but at the same time I am glad I do because it reminds me the moment actually happened. Without it I’m sure I would remember my Grandpa the same way as I do now but it’s the only thing I have of him left in the world.