Old Pictures, New Pictures, Glimpses of Our Lives

In our foyer, above the front door, there’s a decorative collage frame full of photos. Surrounding the photo frames are words like live, laugh, love and family. And until just now, it held a couple of photos that were long overdue for replacing, considering events of last year and people who have stepped out of our lives. While those people might always have a little spot in my heart, they no longer hold a place our family’s photo frame about love and family.

Luckily, this particular piece of decor is so familiar to those of us who live here that we rarely notice it or give the photos much thought any longer. Occasionally, I’ll glance above the door and really see those pictures. I wonder if the fact that they haven’t been replaced means that deep down, I’m having trouble letting go. A little wave of sadness sweeps over me sometimes when I look at them and I ask myself what I’m waiting for. And every once in a while, someone will ask if I’m planning to swap out two particular pictures anytime soon. I guess it’s just one of those things that I keep meaning to do, but never quite get around to. Changing them requires just enough effort that the task keeps falling to the wayside.

Brad came home for a visit this weekend. On Friday night, he casually mentioned that he’d taken a girl out for drinks recently… and that he planned to ask her out again. While my heart did cartwheels of happiness  at the realization that he’s picked himself up and is most surely moving on from a broken relationship, I tried to act casual and not ask too many questions. But the conversation reminded me once again that there were pictures that didn’t belong on our walls.

Technology is a beautiful thing sometimes. While Mark and Brad were off running a couple of errands yesterday, I opened my laptop and browsed through picture folders, picking out the ones I wanted to frame. I uploaded them to the Target photo website and received confirmation before my boys were even back home again that my prints were ready for pick-up at my local store around the corner.

I had taken the opportunity to find and print recent pictures, ones that will remind my kids of happier moments than the photos that were being replaced. There were some of Brad from recent fishing trips, looking like a champ holding trophy-worthy catches.

And there was a great picture of Kacey with her cousin and my mom. I don’t have enough recent pictures of my mom looking as happy as she does in the picture from this past Christmas. And the smile on my daughter’s face tells me that she is just fine, right here at this place in her life today. A particular door closed for her last year too, but her face shows the certainty that her life’s road holds good things ahead.

002And as long as I was printing pictures to display around the house, I took the chance to print a few oldies too. After my father-in-law’s funeral in December, one of Mark’s siblings scanned all of the photos that had been collected and displayed at his wake. A CD of the scans was burned for each sibling to keep. What an amazing gift! I’d never seen most of these pictures because, as I’d long ago learned, most of my in-laws’ old family photos were on slides. There were never any on display around their home. I’d never seen the slides, so the photos that surfaced when Bob passed provided a window to a past to which I’d never before been privy. The story of Bob’s life came alive through the pictures displayed in memory of him. And I was fascinated to learn another side of this man, one that I’d never known before.

Mark’s parents’ wedding photo, showing a young, beautiful, hopeful couple is now displayed alongside those of my own parents and grandparents in our living room. And there are some military photos of my father-in-law from when he served in France during the Korean War. One was a formal portrait of Bob in full uniform. Another was more casual, but so handsome. Bob didn’t trust the internet, but I think he would forgive me for displaying just one old photo of him here. Everyone who saw this picture at the wake agreed he looked rather “Hollywood” in it. I can’t resist sharing.

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And then there was that one snapshot of Brad and his grandpa, taken when Brad was just a baby. I’m not sure who took the picture or contributed it to the collection for the wake. I don’t recall it being in any of my photo albums. It’s one of those poorly framed shots with a messy background, the kind that until just recently, I may have dismissed and tossed in a storage box, deeming it unworthy of framing. But when Brad saw it, he decided he had to have a copy of it. My father-in-law wasn’t much for posing and smiling in photos. Many of the pictures we found were taken spontaneously, where someone was lucky to catch a glimpse of Bob laughing or smiling. This particular picture caught him in a rare moment of playfulness with my son, with Mark driving the riding mower, and Bob riding with Brad in the trailer behind it. It’s one of those moments we probably thought little of at the time, but now seems so precious. I printed it for Brad and picked up a frame so he could display it in his own home.

scan0081 with BradI’m relieved and happy to have finally refreshed the photos in the house. The sad memories will be tucked away.  They’ve been replaced with happier visions of the past and present, showing where we come from, and what’s really important. And the common thread, we’ll be reminded, is love.

The Risk of Loving

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief –
But the pain of grief
Is only a shadow
When compared with the pain
Of never risking love.”

~ Hilary Stanton Zunin

Connor’s mom’s funeral was today. It was a tough one, but it was nice. Connor picked out all of the music for the service. He also went up in front of the congregation and did a reading. He did a beautiful job. I was so proud of him.

Yesterday, it was suggested to me that maybe I am too attached to Connor, considering he and Kacey are only nineteen years old. Who knows where life will take them, right? I know that the statement was only made out of concern for my feelings. If I get too attached and somewhere down the road, Kacey and Connor go their separate ways, I’ll be heartbroken. When the concern was expressed to me, I thought to myself, “It’s too late. I am definitely attached to Connor.”

But I’ve wondered since then if I should have been more cautious with my feelings. My kids are young. Their friends and love interests may come and go from their lives. If I let myself get attached to everyone, am I setting myself up for disappointment and heartache? I don’t know if I have it in me to hold back when I really like, really admire, really love someone who comes into our lives this way. But is it careless of me to let myself get too close to people who may or may not be here for the long haul? I wondered, if I had been more careful with my feelings, if I wouldn’t have felt such a heart-crushing sadness when I learned of Connor’s mom’s passing. Maybe it wasn’t my place to hurt so deeply for a young man and family who aren’t even my own.

I recently put the WordPress app on my iPhone. It allows me to get notifications when a new blog comment is received. Today, just after leaving the church, I felt a vibration from my purse. My phone was buzzing. It was a WordPress notification. I’d received a comment from my friend, Jeni Hill Ertmer in response to one of my recent reflections on Connor and his mom’s passing and the dark feelings I experienced as a result. Jeni’s words came to me just when I needed them most. She said,

The older we get and the more we realize fully that we -none of us -is immortal, I believe causes the passing of others -whether they be young or very old -to register and linger more with us. The unfairness we recognize in the loss of someone either very, very young -as in a child -or an adult just hitting their stride perhaps -is something to be reckoned with for sure and also normal to think if my mind, my heart is so clouded,so fogged up right now in bleak thoughts and sadness, what right does the old sun have to come down and shine its glorious rays upon me and those I care deeply about too? And yet, sometimes it is just in seeing that beautiful sunshine that helps to start the healing process as we still have to look around and see that, yes -life goes on. I think it forces that realization upon us as if to say I know this is painful but let me help you in just some small way. That Kacey, Connor and their closest friends will be respective roomies and also that their rooms will be across the hall will no doubt create a close circle to envelope Connor through the first days there and also, without his Mother too. Peace -to you and especially for him as he begins the process of going forward and truly standing on his own two feet then too.

Jeni’s words washed over me and put me at peace with the sadness I’ve been feeling. She brought me peace with my feelings for Connor too. And I realized, if I’m “too” attached to him, then so be it. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. Connor loves my daughter. And Kacey loves Connor. And so I love Connor. He fits in with us right here, right now and that is good enough for me. Just like one of my own kids, when he is happy, it makes me happy. When he is hurting, I hurt. And when he needs a friend, support and love, I want him to know he can find those things in this house, with this family. There is no guarantee that anyone I love, anyone I care for is going to remain in my life indefinitely. I can’t hold back on loving anyone out of fear of losing them later. That’s no way to live. I may experience heartache somewhere down the road because I feel love. In fact, I think it’s a pretty good bet. I’ll take my chances.

Valentine’s Day, Schmalentine’s Day

My husband doesn’t listen very well. I told him, “NO Valentine’s Day gifts this year.”

Did he listen to me? No.

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s a fabricated holiday designed to get us to buy cards and spend money on unnecessary gifts to prove our love to another. You want to show me you love me? Make the bed. Clean the kitchen. Cook dinner sometime. And stay on your own side of the bed when I’m sleeping.

My husband is not a good gift hider either. He really should learn that if he wants to hide a gift from me, he should put it somewhere I’m not likely to go. Like the grocery store. The closet in our bedroom is not a very creative hiding place. I knew on Saturday what he was giving me when I … get this … went into my own closet! That’s okay. It gave me time to figure out how much money I did or didn’t have to spend on him.

He did tone it down a bit this year and just got me a big box of chocolates. Good ones. I’m not complaining. There’s never a bad time for chocolate. Last year he got me a Nook e-reader. I wasn’t complaining then either, but it seemed a bit extravagant for a holiday I don’t even believe in. I didn’t feel strongly enough to return the Nook though. That was a damn fine gift. Probably one of my favorite gifts he ever got me!

I hate looking for Valentine’s Day cards. I read all those mushy, sentimental cards and I have to fight to keep from sticking my finger down my throat and making a gagging sound. We like to get each other stupid humorous cards that convey the idea that, “Hey, we may get on each other’s nerves on a daily basis, and it may drive you nuts that I left the vacuum cleaner in the living room two days ago and still haven’t put it away. It might annoy me that you can’t watch one t.v. station for five minutes without flipping to another channel, but you do have some wonderful qualities which I don’t acknowledge nearly often enough and congratulations to us on managing to stay married anyway.”

This year, he got me a fine specimen of a card with a caveman on it, with caveman-ish sentiments inside.

 

Personally, I kind of like the part that calls me “hot like fire.” At my age, not many would be so inclined to describe me that way. It was perfect. Because I got him this one:

Because nothing says LOVE like making fun of each other’s imperfections. And an Adele CD, which is what I got him. And if he’s lucky, I’ll let him put his feet over on my side of the bed tonight.