Monday, January 22, 2007

An Accidental Photo

This is a photo I took by accident, the other night. I was carrying the camera and accidentally pressed the shutter. I was about to delete it, when I realized that I couldn't. It was just too good. This is a photo of me and my sister with the only grandparents I ever knew. "Grandmother" was a very formal woman who loved to drink Scotch --only the best-- you know, the stuff that's been aged for 20 years, Glenfitich, I think. And for a long time, I thought the Scotch was a kind of perfume because I associated the smell with her. She was widowed unexpectedly shortly after this photo was taken -- in 1976. In fact, this is the only photo I have with me and my grandfather. And also one of the only memories I have of him.
My grandfather his holding his beloved dauchtsund, "Gretchen." He wanted to be buried with that dog-- and he was...only she lasted about 10 years longer than he did.
As I said, Jane was very formal. She insisted we only call her "Grandmother" -- never Gram or Grandma or Nana. She was very hard-headed and proud...traits I seem to have inherited. Only once did I try to tell her to not drink and drive and ...'um maybe could she wear her seat belt. And for years after that I learned not to say much of anything to her.
She was very into fairness. Each grandchild had to have the same. A cruise with just her at age 13. And the gift of a watch at 16 (that must cost exactly $100). All other gifts were in the form of cash. She was generous with her money, but gifts were never ones she selected. I guess being the last of 13 grandchildren that was just too much by the time I came along.
But, when Daisy was about 2, I realized that our relationship didn't have to be like that. And since I had my own kids now, I had another chance with her. Daisy and I made her cards all the time. We made art and mailed it to her. I told Daisy to start calling her Grandma Jane (whether she liked it or not, I don't know, but she let it slide if she didn't). I took tons of photos and mailed them to her. Any excuse I got and more, I called her. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, her birthday. And, I let Daisy talk to her on the phone. I figured Grandma Jane didn't have anything better she needed to be doing. She was probably lonely and what ever mail or calls she got would be appreciated. And when I was pregnant a second time, I told her if I had a girl, I'd name it Jane after her. But, I didn't have a girl. When Redfish was born, I remember being so happy that she'd get to see him, even in just a photo. Seem like my kindness rubbed off on her. She softened up a bit. And When she died I certainly felt closer to her than I'd ever felt to her before.
Jane was a widow for almost 30 years. She had several serious boyfriends over the years, but she outlasted them all. My grandfather was John. He died of a heart attack. Harold died of lung cancer. Then my grandmother stopped smoking. She dated Don for years. They won dance competitions together. He lived downstairs from her....footsteps away in the same building...but they never moved in together. I don't remember how he died, but things were never the same after he crashed his huge blue Cadillac. I'd say Jane found true love at least 3 times, what a woman to have such luck. On March 1st it will be 2 years since she died.
I still have her voice on a message on my answering machine. The whole last year she was around she left these great messages and I couldn't bring myself to delete any of them. She even sang Happy Birthday to Daisy.
In the background of this photo is my mom's Girl Scout handbook from when she was about 8 years old. And some of my favorite pictures of our family from the day Redfish was born. You can see Daisy in the back dancing around the hospital room. In the photo above that she is touching him for the first time...with such a delicate hand. Like she fully comprehends the miracle of life that just occurred.
And off to the right is a Thai canister that our good friend Rit brought to us from Thailand. Our Thai friend, Soo, explained that being given such a vessel is such a huge honor. It is inlaid with gold and it porcelain, very breakable with 3 pieces -- a base, a bowl and a lid.
This is a still life of our life...something worth recording...not an accident.


TriGirl 40 said...

What a great post - beautiful tribute to your grandmother - and a great testiment to the power of how unconditional love can break down barriers.

Melissa said...

everything happens for a reason. the photo was taken for a reason.

johnmholland said...

I know all those stories and I still feel like it is a great picture and a great post.
You are an awesome writer and photographer -- even by accident.

Diane said...

That's beautiful. What a difference you made in your Grandmother's life. Thank you for sharing it with us.