Yesterday I arrived in Dyersburg around 11:15 and how Southern of me, I had to stop at WalMart to get a birthday card and money for my dad. I called my Mom to let her know I had arrived and to see if she wanted to meet somewhere for lunch.
After lunch, we went to see my Grandma who lives down the street from Mom with her oldest daughter. My aunt pulls out a shoe box of Grandma’s photos for me to go through to decide if there’s anything I want.
Its odd to take the things that belong to the living in order to prepare for when they are dead.
When my step-Grandfather passed away some years ago and my Grandmother decided to sell her house and move in with my aunt to be closer to family, they split up most of her things then, returning gifts she’d been given to the loved one who had given it to her. There’s a wooden rooster in my kitchen that was a result of this division of her things which I’d bestowed upon her one Christmas years ago.
Most of the photos were of people I didn’t know. Then there were multiple grade school pictures of grand children and great grand children, including pics of me from years gone by. There was one baby photo of me I’d never even seen before. With photos of my sister and brother, and of me, I quickly had formed a small pile of photos I’d take.
I claimed a few of my mother – various poses from Christmas dinners including one photo I even took a few years ago of Mom with Grandma. I also took a few of Grandma, including a polaroid of when she married Ernest, her last husband. They were married in a barber shop by a barber who could also marry couples.
There were also a few family photos of Grandma and her children – including my Mom – and several were from even before I was born. I took those too for selfish reasons.
And then there was one photo of Grandma standing at Ernest’s casket, lovingly stroking his hair. Ernest looked thin. It was probably the cancer he’d been battling for months. I had not attended his funeral although I wrote a poem for them to read at his service. And I don’t remember the last time I saw Ernest alive before this photo was taken. I almost lay claim to this photo, but decided the photos of him (alive) and Grandma that I’d already collected would suffice.
This particular photo struck me as a bit odd because only a few days ago I finished a flash fiction story based on my step-Grandmother (on my father’s side) and a photo I took of her in 1986 at my Grandfather’s (my dad’s dad) side at the funeral home. I remember standing on a chair to take that photo with a Polaroid camera, but I cannot remember what she was wearing.
And now here I sit on the opposite of the family looking at a similar photos, not just of him in his casket but family members at graveside next to his stone, only his birthdate filled in and a pile of flowers on the ground drying in the sun. As many reasons to snap a photo to remember an event, you’d think on these days no photos would be taken.
There are a thousand yesterdays to remember with just a photograph, and yet we still need a photo to remember this last day we are ever going to see someone even if they are already gone. We don’t necessarily know the last day we’ll see them living. Makes me think of that saying how we should cherish everyday like it was our last, but maybe instead we should cherish it like its everyone else’s…because yesterday may be it.
Funny word – yesterday. We always look forward to tomorrow, selfishly assuming there will always be one. We take photos today to remember the yesterdays we fear will be forgotten. And sooner or later we are too old to care about counting them. Each day blends together and there have been too many yesterdays to care about or count. We minimize the physical reminders because the memories in our mind are the only ones we can take with us when its over.
I’m glad I have my yesterdays. And now I have my Grandma’s too.