April 14, 2013 PM – Exhausted

Exhausted, but in a mostly good way, that is.

Out of respect for her privacy (if I’m ever outed here), I won’t say anything specific other than my wife is struggling with some things right now unrelated to us or me. She confided in me the other morning, long before sunrise about it. This is rare – she has a tremendous amount of difficulty with talking about it. It’s hard seeing her going though this, but it’s one of those necessary things. I’ve been there. It sucks on many, many levels.

We’ll be relocating this year, as I’ve mentioned in a previous entry. She’s lived in this part of the country for the entirety of her life. In fact, she’s lived in about a 30 mile radius of her home town her entire life, so she’s wanting to stretch her legs for a number of reasons. I’ve moved across the country three times. Once from Michigan to Seattle, Seattle back to Michigan and then Michigan to Massachusetts. This will be move number four for me – back to Michigan.

My wife and I spoke about the more mundane and practical parts of the move this weekend. What we’re taking, what we’re selling and what we’re giving away. We also have tried to figure out how we’re going to manage getting two cars, two cats and an elderly dog to travel well for 14-16 hours. Chances are the pets will be with me and I’ll not stop along the way other than briefly for gas and food. Anyway… Details are still being hashed out.

Moving across the country or over a great distance is hard. You don’t expect to miss an area that much when you go, and once you do it’s not exactly practical to go back for a quick visit. Everything and everyone you’ve known are back in that one place (if you’ve not moved around a lot outside of a small area). The isolation really hits you. I’ve considered myself to be an introvert, but I’m really not. If anything I’m just more inclined to keep to myself for other reasons. My wife is the same way. Neither of us are the lively life of the party types. Far from it, really. I have a lot of friends and family back in Michigan. My wife is happy with being part of my family, dysfunction (tremendous dysfunction) aside. When I mentioned that she’ll likely feel very alone, she said that she’d be fine – she really likes my father and the rest of the family that we’ll see on a somewhat regular basis. I just know that the first 6-8 months in a new place is the difficult adjustment period. It takes that long to really know the roads and places you like, to meet some new people and maybe be part of a larger circle of friends – that sort of thing. The move to Seattle and back was difficult, but was overall ok. I did have a crippling depression while there though when the company I had moved there to work for had fallen apart and I was many weeks behind in pay (which I never saw). I had to call my father for help in moving back across the country. There wasn’t any other work to be found there at the time and all of my money had been used up. I lost everything – literally everything except for my car and some clothes. Moving here though 7 years ago was harder. I had become closer to my family and friends since moving back from Seattle. I wanted to move though. I’d even say that I needed to. My wife describes her desire to move as more of a need than a want. I get that – I really do, given my understanding of what she’s looking for.

My wife is the sentimental type. If I give her a sweet hand-written card she’ll often well up with tears and give me a nice hug. I always give my wife hand-written cards. The messages in regular cards are too impersonal and just signing my name under someone else’s words feels insincere to me. Anyway, I wanted her to be able to take something real and tangible from here – from her home that she’s always known for when that inevitable homesickness sets in. I had read something about a terrarium a few days ago and it seemed like a good idea, so yesterday I went out early before she was up and gathered most of the things necessary to make one. I gathered stones from one of her favorite beaches here and today we bought local-grown plants for it. She must have liked the idea for it. She picked up a second glass enclosure today for her other plants here that she wants to take with her. She cried this morning after a long pause as we talked about moving. She said she wanted me to take a portrait of her, her mother, her grandmother and niece all together (I’m a decent photographer) before we move. Her grandmother is quite old and her health is questionable. She said that when we move and she says her goodbyes to her family that it will likely be the last time she sees her grandmother alive before we’d be able to visit next. This made me tear up as well. I was with my grandmother at her bedside when she died. I was the only family member there with her even though she protested. I still miss her a lot and I’m still glad I was there with her even though at the time it was excruciating.

I want to do something more than just give her a photograph of her together with them though. Her grandmother doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak Portuguese, so there’s more than a little barrier there. Her grandmother is also unable to read or write. My father has been telling me parts of the story of his own life. It’s odd, the things you miss or simply aren’t aware of about your parents when you’re growing up. So many things I simply had no idea of. The pictures we often paint of our parents and loved ones tend to cast the light upon them that we choose to see. There are many sides to our loved ones just as there are with us. We don’t show our parents certain sides or tell them certain things just as they don’t tell us things. My father and I have broken down that wall. Last fall when I was hospitalized I couldn’t deny things anymore and I certainly didn’t want to hide any longer. So, we’ve reintroduced ourselves and gotten to know each other, rather than holding onto the ideas we have of each other. I’m glad to know these stories now and I’ll hold onto them when he’s gone someday. It’s not a day I’m hardly ready for, but I don’t think anyone is if they’re close to their parents. Anyway, I want my wife to have these stories of her grandmother’s life. I’m thinking of taking my laptop and a decent microphone with me to see her and have her tell me the story of her life – in her words, in her voice. If it takes a couple of hours or several visits, I want to have that for her. It will help me to know the story of her family, too.

It’s an odd thing to me.. I remember walking through Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston to take photos a few years ago and there were small headstones and large mausoleums there. Some of the headstones were more like monuments to certain people speaking of their greatness, where as others simply had a name and their birth and death years. Sure, there were great people with prominence or notoriety, but there are so many people that you’ll not hear of past their own death. The only people that would care of their story are those whom were touched by them in some meaningful way. Most people mean something significant to someone, but beyond a couple of generations are people remembered or known for who they were? A couple of paragraphs on a monument or large headstone are the summary – a highlight reel of a more complex life and a far more complex person. So to me, having someone tell their story in their own words and choosing what they deem to be important to tell is a gift for them and their loved ones. If I do this for my wife’s grandmother I won’t have the pleasure of knowing what she’s saying. Sure, my mother in law will be there and could translate, but I don’t want that to interrupt or overshadow her simply being able to speak freely at her own pace. Aside from that… I don’t know what else to do.. There’s all this stuff about people living on in your hearts or dreams, which is true to some degree, but I wish I had more than a photograph of my grandmother or a photograph of my best friend who died many years ago. I don’t even remember my friends voice anymore. I remember details of her accent, but the tone of her voice is gone from my memory. Her laughs, her cries, her giggling, the way she’d say “I love you.” That’s all gone. The emails are all gone too. All that’s left is that photo of her.. The same of my grandmother, too.

It was chilly here today. We drive to Newport, RI this morning, which is only a few miles south of where we live. We drove down the streets looking at the shops, then stopped at Starbucks for something to drink. We drove past the mansions and down Ocean Drive, part of which is still closed for repairs from hurricane Sandy. We sat and talked a little and just took in that ocean air smell. If only we could bottle that and take it with us. My memory is so dodgy at times.. That’s part of why I love photos. If I take that photo, at a mere glance I can recall with great detail and accuracy the things surrounding that photo. I can recall the day, the time it was taken, what the weather was like, other events from the day, how I was feeling and what was going on in my life. My photos are my mental diary and my memory is somewhat bound to them. Each photo means something to me. Some may look and see a photo they love for aesthetic reasons, or some might actually feel something looking at my work, but I feel it for a whole other reason. For me it’s a documentary thing. I’m chronicling what I see. I tend to see beauty in the everyday – the often overlooked mundane. Much like I see people that are passed by or are greatly unnoticed. I see everyday hero’s, not just those in medicine or public service, but the kind barber who always brightens people’s day. My barber is from Syria and he’s one of the most kind and friendly people I’ve ever met. I ask him about his family every time I see him and he really appreciated that I remember and ask. He’s someone I want a portrait of before we move. With any luck I’ll get his email address – I care to maintain contact. He’s such an interesting person and has stories to tell of a part of the world that I’ll likely never see.

I don’t fully understand my need – not desire – my need, to photograph and document things. I do share some of it with the world. I’ve had photos published and it’s always a wild feeling when that happens. I’ve never sought publication. The times that I’ve been published it’s been from my portfolio online or blog entries from a blog I’ve not maintained in years. It’s odd when something I’ve written gets picked up as well. Apparently some things resonate with people.

I’m rambling now… Sorry about that. Thoughts are all over the place tonight. I’m feeling pretty good, but I can’t concentrate. I need to get some sleep. I need to be up in 5 hours for work.

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