I was just telling you about my valiant garage cleaning attempt from yesterday. Part of what I was doing was going through some
photographs from my Mother’s side of the family. I’ve mentioned before that my Mother died when I was 9. I’m still trying to deal with that a lot of days. My Grandmother was moving, and had a lot of extra family photos that she wanted to give me the pick of.
I was pretty conflicted about a lot of these pictures. I really wanted to have some of them. I wanted to have the photos and the memories. I wanted the photos of different times in my family’s lives. I wanted some photos of a “happier” time in my life. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time staring at pictures of my Mother, who died when I was 9, hooked up to machines in a hospital. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking at pictures of my Grandfather, who died when I was 19, at home in pain from bone cancer. I definitely didn’t want to spend any time looking at pictures of my step-father, who is still alive and I wish he wasn’t, for so many reasons I can’t get into them now. I’ll share later, I promise.
I managed the sorting and choosing portion pretty well. I took some, left others. I tried to not end up with doubles or very similar ones. I also noticed that my Grandparents got A LOT of portraits taken. I did alright though. I wasn’t too sad or too angry. I ended up with some nice photos. I took them all home in their frames, to protect them. I figured I’d just throw the frames away later. This is what I had to go through in my own garage. I needed to take them out of their protective frames and take them inside. This was the part that got hard.
My family has always kept a relatively accurate photographic archive. Most of the photos are portrait type shots, and they take them every few years or so. That means that through the course of my 28 years, I have seen photos from every hairstyle and fashion fad. I’m not unfamiliar with pictures of my Mother from high school, or myself in questionable attire. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sadness.
When my Mother died, I wasn’t quite old enough to understand. I have enough memories to miss her, but I wasn’t old enough to know what had happened until later. I understood that she wasn’t around anymore, that it was sad, and that she wouldn’t be able to come back. It wasn’t until much later that I began to understand what it means for someone to have died. I only now understand what it means that someone, especially my Mother, died while I was still in elementary school.
When my Grandfather died, I knew what it all was going to mean. I was as alright as I was going to be with his death when it happened. My Grandfather was a vibrant and vigorous man. He was sweet and he was passionate about so many things. When he got bone cancer, we first thought it would be easier for him than others. He would never show his hurt and he would be the same lively and dignified man as always. The cancer destroyed him. He hurt so much and only showed us a little bit. He wasn’t able to get up and do things like before. He was sad and tired and he was never sad and tired. I was so happy for him when he passed away quietly at home, because he was in pain and because he was not my Grandfather. He was not, at that time, the man everyone knew and loved. I refuse to remember him that way.
I wasn’t prepared for how all of those photos would force me to feel. Make no mistake, they forced it upon me. They forced me to remember how pretty my Mother was. They made me see the happiness in her eyes. They captured my eyes with my Grandfather’s handsomeness. They took my will to look away from his lively eyes and smile. They gave me no option to escape my step-father’s false mask. They refused my attempts to forget that he was alive.
As I took all of those photos out of their frames and gathered them to keep safe inside, I had no choice but tho remember how happy we had been before our world came unglued. I won’t say that my life was better before. I am everything that I am because of the sum total of my life. I was happy before it all began to tear at the seams. I was less happy after my Mother died. Anyone would be.
What I had been avoiding thinking about and couldn’t avoid yesterday was how that all applies to my life from here on out. Those people I love and respect so much will never get to see what kind of a man I turn into. I’m a man now, but I know I’m not finished becoming what I will be. They will never get to see how it happened or what it will be. They will never get to see me have children. They won’t get to see what they become. That’s what makes me the saddest.
One of these days I’ll come to terms with that. I’ll be able to accept that that is the way it has to be. I think what will help is knowing who WILL get to see those things happen. My still living parents and grandparents. They are the ones that will have to be loving and proud to my future children.
I suppose eventually I will be able to get past it all. It seems that sometimes the only way to truly be able to be okay with something like this is to look back and realize you’ve been okay with it for awhile now. Seeing that you’ve made that peace in hindsight is sometimes the only way it can truly come into focus.
Until then, I’ll just have to not be scared to think of when it hadn’t begun to crack yet. I will have to accept that thinking about that will make me sad. Sometimes, I will just have to be sad.