For several months, I’ve been working on organizing some of my old photos. I have thousands of photos in boxes, albums, and my special red external drive. Each origin has different photos. This morning I added a new group to the mix when I downloaded photos from a cousin’s online album of old family photos.
Organizing my photos began with the ones stored on the external drive, but since I’m easily distracted, I’ve worked on sorting the Facebook photos. I’ve taken pictures on my phone, uploaded from my camera, scanned old photographs, and shared other photos that my family and friends have uploaded.
All these photos were jumbled together in my timeline. I had started a few “albums” but mostly a photo of my granddaughter’s track meet might be next to a picture of a pumpkin. No order. Whatsoever.
One of the first rules of order was to gather together some of Jim’s photos into one album. Every time I wanted to post a photo of him, I was searching here and there for it. I don’t know how many times I scanned his army photo to send it in for the Sedalia Democrat’s Veteran’s Day insert.
I posted photos of Jim in his youth, in Vietnam, on vacations, and even on trips to conventions. What I could not bring myself to post were pictures of him when dementia changed his looks. Late in the disease, Jim became gaunt, he kept his head in a thrown back position, his expressions—well, were different. I continued to love him with all my heart and wanted to do anything I could to make his life better. Making it better often started with a kiss, just like making a child’s “owie” better. Only, it never got better.
I became an advocate because I so desperately wanted a cure for this awful disease. Even when his neurologist who had him entered into a research program told me, “You know, if a cure comes now, it will be too late for Jim.” At that point, his brain was shrinking, the synapses were misfiring, and life had become a struggle for him. For me. For his mom. For our children. For everyone who loved him.
During those ten years of dementia, we learned to live a new norm. We found moments to enjoy, time to laugh, and wrapped it all in love. We found a way to live until his life was gone.
Now, I cherish the memories that made Jim the man I chose to share my life with and to father my children. During the early years of our marriage, we went through rough financial times when we struggled to pay the bills. Sometimes we had disagreements, or outright verbal warfare. But through it all, there was never the slightest doubt that we would work it out and that love trumped adversity and controversy. He always had my back, and I had his.
When he changed, I missed his fierce loyalty and the way he spoiled me. He never called me by name. He always called me by a term of endearment: “honey,” “sweetheart,” “princess.” The closest he came to calling me by name was “Lindarella,”—a play on the song “Cinderella” that he sang especially for me.
Photos and videos bring him back to life—the way he was. Yes, I’ll keep the photos of him late in the disease, and I may even share a few. Others will remain private.
Memories are a way to enrich the present, not hijack it. Looking through my album called “Old Family Photos” I realized how blessed I am to have these photos to remind me of the love I’ve received and given.
Old photos make me smile. My heart overflows with good fortune and the blessing of enduring love.
Copyright © January 2016 by L.S. Fisher