Sometimes memories are best packed away for a while
A forgotten cartridge of exposed film fell from a bag I hadn't used since last spring. It didn't surprise me because I'm always finding things like this, and I took it in to have it developed, wondering what glimpse into the past the photographs might provide.
A couple of weeks later I remembered to pick up the photos, and when I looked at them, I almost wished I hadn't.
As I sat at a stoplight and thumbed through the prints, I saw one after another designed to bring tears to my eyes. Aware that there were people looking down at me from a truck in the left turn lane, I rummaged for a Kleenex and blew my nose, wiping my eyes in the process, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. I quickly put the pictures away, determined to look at them when I was better prepared for their simple but unsettling views, thinking I'd take another glimpse at them after I'd hardened my heart just a little.
Among the prints, some silly and some memorable, were several shots of a newly etched gravestone containing the names of both my parents, viewed during a Memorial Day trip to the family cemetery in southern Missouri. My mother's name had finally been added to my father's, creating a reality I wasn't ready to face.
Cemetery trips are best postponed, to my way of thinking, until the heart has healed and peace, rather than grief, can be found there. The question is, how long must that take?
Then, past some silly shots of the kids playing in the yard at the beginning of the summer's warm weather, I found some more tear-jerkers.
The first showed Beatrice, my little mother Dachshund, perched on the edge of the sofa next to one of my sleeping daughters. She looked at the camera directly, in the same way she viewed all comers, always ready for confrontation or conversation.
Three days after that photo was taken, she was gone, taken by a heart problem we had not known about. She was young, still raising her two pups, although they were old enough at age one to be on their own. She didn't think so. She was bossy and busy, and most certainly a part of the family. She was never aware of any distinguishing line between humans and dogs.
The next photo was of another family pet, our aging dog, Oakley. He sat on the front porch with the kids, sporting his new spring haircut and grooming. That picture was shot a month before he strolled into the path of an oncoming truck in front of our house to be killed.
I quickly added these photos to my boxes of others treasured by the family, to be put away and taken out when we could smile, remember funny stories and laugh. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but experience has taught me it will happen, eventually.