The picture is of my mother. It is one of my favorites.
Until a day or two ago, all I had was a blurry version of it, but I recently stumbled on some software that claimed to be able to accurately sharpen blurred images using artificial intelligence. I tried it, using this picture as my first trial. As you can see, it works. Yeah, I’ll probably buy the software. It is worth the payment just to get this picture back.
When you look around my house, you see lots of evidence of my father. He refinished furniture and for most of his life, he was superb. I learned a lot from him but I am nowhere near as skilled as he was. So in many rooms in our house you will find the corner cupboard he built out of pre-revolutionary shutters, or the 18th century dress with its glass like finish, looking probably, better than new. Everywhere you look.
You won’t find as many evidences of my mother, but that does not mean her influence was less than my father’s. It was probably more. Her influence was the kind that shaped spirits more than things. I learned patience from her. I learned tolerance and the art of accomplishing things gently. I learned faith and that faith has to have muscles and work in the world. I got my love of music from her, and my love for all that bad-for-me southern cooking that makes my wife (who eats so very healthy) shake her head.
It has been a few years now that they passed, her less than year before him. Most of you who have lost parents know this: Their presence stays with you. But parts of them fade. So, for me at least, every picture has value to you, a value that grows the longer they are gone.
This picture was taken during a Thanksgiving gathering a few months before she died. There were no signs at all of the cancer that was silently killing her even then. She felt fine. None of us suspected.
In my family, Thanksgiving is where we come together. It always has been. Christmas’ we often spend at home with our families, but Thanksgiving my sisters and their kids, my own kids, friends from afar, we all gather at my parents’ house, the house I grew up in. Most of us have to travel far to make that trip, but if we can, we do. It’s a lot of travel for a day or two of togetherness, but we make the journey.
I don’t know the conversation that was going on when I took this picture. At the time, I am sure, if I thought of it at all that it was just one in a never ending chain of family conversations. Unaware it was about to change.
I cannot tell you what the conversation was about, but a look at her, the tilt of her head, the look in her eyes, the turn of her mouth, that she is invested in the conversation. Something has made her think and she’s having a real conversation, not just a fluffy family nothing of a conversation.
That is something else I got from her. The love of a real conversation. I don’t do small talk well. But give me a meaty subject, something with complications, nuance, depth, and I am happy. Give me that real give and take without rancor, an exchange of ideas and self in an atmosphere of trust in the people I am speaking with, that differences may be heated, but are not personal, and I come out of my introverted shell and come alive.
She gave me that too. In a real sense, while my house is full of things to remind me of my father, my life and spirit is full of things that remind me of her.
I had a dream of she and Dad last night. They talked to me. What they said was less important than just hearing their voices. That is one of the things that fade with time. My son actually kept the little microcassette from their answering machine just so he would have her voice to listen to now and again. My daughter took the greeting from a letter my mother sent her and had it tattooed on her arm. I get it. As years past, you kinda can remember their voices, but to actually hear them again… , to see that writing once so familiar, that is subline, I am grateful for the occasional dream she shows up in. It shows me that part of my brain really can play back their voice. That memory is deeper than I know.
So a picture of that kind of moment, captures her perfectly. And I am grateful.
Have a blessed day. Remember the people you love. Forever.