Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Picture Perfect

       I'm sitting here, watching the rain outside, bumping some Urban Sophisticates and looking at old pictures. I've always loved pictures and just the chance to sit around and reminisce. I have thousands of pictures on Facebook, hundreds at my mom's house, and two or three scrapbooks laying around my dad's house. I started doing make shift photo-shoots when I was probably a pre-schooler with the photographer and close family friend that lived next door to us and I've loved doing them ever since. 

       When I was in high school I developed an obsession with taking pictures. After losing a close friend before freshman year I started looking around for pictures of the two of us together and could only find one of the many I knew we took. The picture is from my thirteenth birthday party... she's sitting on the couch in my basement (that was the same exact couch she had in her basement), staring straight at  the camera, while I'm laying on the couch leaning on her and looking off to the side. It's the only one. The pictures we took around the pond, in my backyard, of us goofing off in our rooms, the rest are gone. The one I have framed is the only one I can find of us. I wanted more to look at, I wanted more to remember. 

       About a year later my grandaddy started to show signs of Alzheimer's. I watched his memories get twisted and fragile as they slowly disappeared. What he could remember, and what he was presently living were all skewed into one reality. My family got together a scrapbook and framed pictures of all the grandchildren for him to look at. But when he was having an episode or lapse of memory he could look at the pictures of all of us and name us even if he didn't realize we were the people standing right in front of him. 

       Like I said, I became obsessed with pictures. Taking pictures, being in pictures, finding pictures, sorting pictures, looking through pictures. About a year ago I decided I was going to organize all the pictures in my mom's collection... we're talking huge tupperware bins full of birthdays, chicken pox, first days of school, halloweens, and vacations. While my mom was in the hospital I took over her living room with piles and piles of memories. My brother and sister (who happens to be a photographer) were staying at the house and helping out, and I can remember telling my brother names of people that were in pictures taken before I was even born. I've seen these pictures over and over again. I've pulled out the bins before just to scour through the fading gloss and ask questions about the people I didn't know. These pictures are my blood. In fact, the past couple of months I've been chastising myself because I don't think I ever got a picture of my uncle Gigi and me before he passed this year.

       Every time I hear about a house burning down I think about the things I would grab. But I know it'd be useless. The material things don't matter as long as my family is safe, but I would be devastated if I lost all my pictures. Going digital hasn't helped my anxiety either, I'm always worried my computer will crash or Facebook will disappear and I won't be able to access photos I need. Sure, after looking at them as often as I do, I can tell you every detail about my favorites... the clothes people are wearing, the way we're interacting, when and where it was taken and the way I felt that day. Test me. I dare you. 

       As I watch Mema walking down the same path my grandaddy did I've come to terms with the fact that it's a good possibility Alzheimer's will affect my mom, uncles, cousins, brothers, and probably me. It's been hard to see it happening again, but easier this time because we've been prepared and know that we can't control it. The symptoms are a little different with her, and my aunt and uncle have been so generous to move her into their house. The layout is different, her responsibilities are gone, her furniture is brand new... but when you walk into her room you can't help but notice that covering every wall and surface are pictures of her entire family. 

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