Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The gift that keeps on giving

Each year, my sister and I try to get away for a weekend at the Oregon Coast. It's just sister time - no boys allowed - and we always have fun. We do have the occasional opportunity to rub each other the wrong way, but it's always fleeting and a whole lot less damaging than some of what we inflicted on each other as children!

This year, we chose to go on the weekend that encompassed the 90th anniversary of our mother's birth. In one of my more blonde moments, I commented to Peggy, "Ninety years! I'll bet she never thought she'd live to see this day!" And, of course, she didn't, having died 18 years ago. But it's a tribute to her that not only could the thought pass through my brain and out my mouth, but that my sister and I had a good chuckle over it. Mom was never one to mince words. You didn't "pass" or "pass away," you didn't go to "eternal rest," either. You died. And we knew what she wanted to be buried in ever since we were quite young. As it turned out, she was cremated and didn't get the ecru nightgown, but that was her choice. Ecru was so 1960s by then.

We played on our computers, watched Harry Potter movies, ate junk food, drank a little wine, a little Bailey's, a little Kahlua in our coffee. We had hot chocolate, popcorn, and I took along homemade clam chowder and some delicious biscuits my son had made. We watched the waves break, and the people and dogs on the shore. We went in the pool and the hot tub, and just generally had a high old time.

Then, Saturday night late, we each got a message on Facebook that our half-brother - from our dad's other family - had posted some photos and had tagged us. So, of course, we had to look!

All of a sudden, a little cloud crept into our cozy getaway. There, on Facebook, were two photos of our very own mother that we had never before seen. Our half-brother had scanned and posted them as "Old Florida pictures," and they were from our dad's photographs that Rodney has been kind enough to go through since dad died last October.
Also among the many that he posted were pictures of Peggy, our older brother, and me. Pictures that dad had kept for all these years - the most recent were taken in 1972, 38 years ago.

After my first reaction of stunned silence, and a momentary flash of anger that this should intrude on what was otherwise a perfect weekend, I shed a few tears and went out onto the balcony to let it all sink in. This man, this biological contributor, had cared enough at some point to keep these photographs of his children. The same children he abandoned and left to be raised by a crippled woman who was old before her time because of the long, hard hours she worked at physically demanding jobs. This man who had allowed our home to be foreclosed on, who had moved from Florida to Alaska and thus out of the reach of any enforced child support, this very same man had kept these photographs of his children.

Peggy thinks the keeping was not deliberate, but simply the lack of any need to weed out those things that weren't important to him. Perhaps she's right; she often is about things like this. But for a fleeting moment, it passed through my mind that maybe he had loved us after all. That maybe - despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary - he felt proud of us and kept those pictures as a reminder of us.

Had he not avoided us on occasions when we could have seen him, and had he not shown his disregard for us in so many other ways, maybe I could eventually convince myself that he cared. Once again, I have proved to myself that being old doesn't necessarily equate to being wise!

Anyway, Happy 90th Birthday, Mom. We (mostly) enjoyed the party.


  1. I'm happy for you to have found "new" old photos. Regardless of why and how they were retained, finding them must feel like finding treasure, doesn't it?

  2. I love you. I'll never know how hard the journey of being your father's daughter is. You ARE wise. You are wise because you choose to love in your life rather than be soured by your experiences. And that is a big deal.
    Thank you.