Monthly Archives: August 2010

Adieu, August Break

The last day of August means the last day of August Break. Thanks, Susannah. It’s been really good for me to look back and see where I’ve been over the last few years of picture taking.

Hopefully all this hasn’t been a complete distraction and you’ve managed to make a dent in that book of yours.

You can see the rest of the August Break participants here:

Ron Needs August Break

Sometimes, my narrowness of vision can be a little embarrassing. For the longest time, I just thought Ron was an ordinary New York City oddball (folks from New York will know exactly what I mean by that). He wrote weird poems that rhymed, volunteered at a 7th Day Adventist church, and had a perpetually awkward way about him. But for all that, I now see that I misunderstood him terribly.

I don’t really remember which family function was Ron’s first. He appeared out of nowhere on the arm of my Aunt Mary, the doyenne of my Irish clan. It was around the time she was first diagnosed with cancer, I think, so it must have been in the late 90s. At first, the most notable thing about him how completely opposite of her previous partner he was. Uncle Paul had been with Aunt Mary throughout my entire childhood and she couldn’t have found anyone more different in Ron. Physically, Ron was Laurel and Uncle Paul was Hardy. Uncle Paul was outgoing and affable, Ron was reserved and withdrawn. The whole thing just didn’t add up to me.

Flash forward to February 21, 2009, when this picture was taken. We’re at Aunt Mary’s bedside as she hangs on the edge of life. I have my C220 and am quietly snapping photos, mostly because I don’t know what else to do. I see Ron sitting by the window, seemingly removed from the proceedings. I snap a shot of him.

A year later, when I finally develop the film, I see what I had been missing the whole time – that Ron had been a constant and patient companion for what must have been the most difficult years of my Aunt Mary’s life. That at the moment the war was finally over, he was exhausted and ambivalent, as much relieved at the end of hostilities as pained at her passing. That the awkward man I never fully embraced had performed a service to me and my family greater than anyone could ever know.

So let’s call this my day of atonement, a moment to honor one person’s service to someone I loved. Thanks, Ron.

(Sorry to get so heavy, but I that’s just what happens with some photos.)

You can see the rest of the August Break participants here:

An August Break with Mums

I didn’t realize this for a long time, but there are a few gnarled branches in my family tree. And fruit that grows on a gnarled branch has a tendency to turn out a little…off. My grandmother is just such a piece of fruit.

My grandmother is the archetypal Italian matriarch. Uncompromising, reserved, and loyal to the point of claustrophobia. Family folklore even has it that when she was girl living in Italy, she slept through a major earthquake (quite possibly the Avezanno quake, given the time period). She traveled the world on her own, including China and the Middle East. If I remember right, she even skipped my younger sister’s wedding because she had already arranged a trip to Turkey.

But things are different now. Grandma is in her 90s now and not nearly as independent as she used to be. After about 50 years in the greater New York City area, she’s relocated to an assisted living community in Massachusetts. And she’s not at all happy about it.

I recently saw an opportunity in this sad state, though. Just last weekend, I was up visiting my sister and had a chance to visit with Grandma. I brought my little Shur-Shot with me, hoping to get a portrait of my sister and her husband. That didn’t happen, but when my grandmother saw it, she smiled and said “I had one of those when I was a girl.” For the next half hour or so, we sat and talked about photography. Grandma wished aloud that she had her photos with her so that she could organize them. I thought that seemed like a perfectly reasonable request.

When someone has a history of being as difficult to reach as my grandmother, any opportunity to connect has to be grabbed, right?

You can see the rest of the August Break participants here: