I am babysitting two boys today: infant, toddler, grandsons, cousins – joy, hope, optimism, solace. I am busy with the tasks of caring for them, but I am still able to shoot hundreds of photos of those hours. My phone and camera are always close. I read in a travel article the recommendation to leave the camera at home and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of each moment. I appreciate that perspective of travel and life, yet what will I have to remind me when the inevitable forgetfulness of old age comes to me? My photos will be my memory aids into my past. There have been photos recently that became the victims of the shredder and the delete button. I have no regrets at their destruction; there is no need for remembrance. Eventually my photos may fall to that same fate when there is no one left to appreciate them; my parent’s slides of a trip to Europe in the 1960’s eventually fed the fire. At the time, I did not regret their destruction. My brother did not want any of them, and I did not at the time either. Now I remember the slides of Checkpoint Charlie and the photos of Rubenesque bikini-clad women in socks at the Black Sea. I wish I had kept those.
I seldom travel without my Nikon, even on short trips to the store. The camera on my cell phone is not dependable; its battery near depletion at just the moment I find a shot. I carry three cameras most of the time: my Nikon, my cell and Jacob’s cell. Does anyone really need three cameras; I do. The camera records nuances I sometimes miss; perhaps it is the camera itself in front of my eyes that reduces my vision. Still, I will not give it up for that clear unfettered view. I need to record the things I see from landscapes to buildings to graffiti to plants to people. My oldest grandson is a toddler and has such a mass of expressions ranging from sheer delight to frustration and anger. When he displays some expression or gesture that is reminiscent of another family member, I think of nature vs. nurture. I try to capture all those expressions and moments; one day I will make an album of just facial expressions to show him. Even now he watches and laughs as I flip through the photos I have taken of him. I wonder what he is thinking about that toddler on the screen. My youngest grandson is still an infant; I take those “Gerber-baby” shots of him. Sometimes I think I waste too much time shooting, sorting and deleting pictures, then picking a few to share. I enjoy this though, so it must not be a waste.
If only I had more time to write. When free time comes, my body and mind are too tired to craft a sentence. My last installments leading up to Jacob’s trial last July and the sentencing hearing(s) in October are waiting for me to finish. They were started months ago, and I return to them every so often. Perhaps over my daughter’s spring break, I will finish those posts to bring me forward to the present. This unfinished business hangs over me; I cannot move forward until those chapters are written. Is my writing self-indulgent; perhaps it is simply my diary left open for others to read. Sentences write themselves in my head as I lay in bed or drive mindlessly down the road. Sometimes I have my phone ready to record the kernels of ideas or phrases to remember to put on paper later. When ideas come while laying in bed; I consider getting up to find a notebook, but I seldom do. I just hope that I will remember it in the morning, but it usually disappears with the forgotten dreams of the night.
I worry about wasting time on meaningless tasks which is why my house is dirty; my garden full of weeds; filing stacked up in piles on the filing cabinet. Soon I will be forced to sort through those stacks of papers to find all those forms for filing our income taxes. Why do I even need to file? I am not employed for wages; my husband is on disability; my savings bleeding out. After more than a year, we are still owed thousands from the lawyer’s fund for the money misappropriated by our deceased lawyer. We wonder if we will ever see any money or can we write off this loss?
Did I ever believe that our senior years would be full of enjoyment, peace and serenity? Did I ever really believe I would fulfill my dreams of travel? My mother’s words ring true; there is nothing golden about the golden years. She said this as her memory faded, and she sat in a wheelchair. She became wheelchair-bound in her last year when her hip replacement was replaced for the third time, and her mind could not grasp therapy. She forgot how to walk. Inevitably, therapy ended; the insurance would not pay for a dementia patient to receive hopeless treatment. I worry about wasting time, but then I wonder why I should feel that when I am doing exactly what I want to at that moment. It is simply a trade-off to neglect one thing for another. My life is stressful and busy; it is not the life I had expected to lead. This past year and half has been the most turbulent and chaotic time of our lives. I think the word mayhem is apt; there are people who bring mayhem and then flee from the wreckage they have created.
Jacob’s letters were waiting in the mailbox when I got to his house yesterday. He writes well, with expression and with emotion. This experience has brought forth the emotions that he kept inside. His ex-wife finally succeeded in bringing out those emotions she believed did not exist. But, look, she is nowhere in sight to see. He sends a list of things he wants to read and study. He shares some articles from THE NEW YORKER he thinks might interest me. He tells me about programs for ex-offenders. He tells me his fears; I share them. He thanks me again for being there for him in this last year and half. It is not necessary to thank me, but it is appreciated. I should write to him more. I should send him more pictures. I printed some of the boys, but last week I sent him the pictures of his cats and our dog’s unheralded puppies.
The sun came out this morning, and suddenly the day seemed brighter; and I was energized. My snowdrops (galanthus nivalis) were blooming yesterday when my grandson and I went for a walk in the back yard. They are a harbinger of spring. I looked for the crocuses too; they must still be there. Only a few plants still pop up from my once-beautiful garden. This sun in winter though never has the same effect as the sun in spring and summer or the sun in Arizona where we once lived. I can still feel the overwhelming happiness of waking at 6 AM to the sun in Tucson. Jacob is a native Arizonan, the outlier in a state where the first question most people are asked is, “Where are you from?” We have often questioned why we returned to Pennsylvania. We could still be waking to that bright sun.