2012 has been a difficult year. Early in the year, we were hit hard with my father’s stroke. In May, we discovered that my grandfather had a severe leg infection that resulted from blood clots. Originally, when I planned my trip to Jersey for the end of May, it was supposed to be an easy vacation for Brian and me. Instead, it involved much heavier things like visiting my grandfather at the rehab center, visiting an elder care attorney, going through my grandfather’s house for a few items that I wanted and helping my parents get prepped to put my grandfather into assisted living.
This would be hard enough under normal circumstances. It just happened to coincide with the timing when my brother was moving out of our small Jersey town for the first time in 30 years and my father is still dealing with residual effects from the stroke.
My grandmother was keeper of the family history. She had vast photo albums for each of us and that was what I wanted from their house. I particularly wanted the Danielle photo album because I knew it had baby pics. But, as I looked through the other albums, I asked my parents if I could have the albums for my dad, my grandfather and my great-grandfather.
I was shocked at the things in my album. Every program from my chorus and orchestra performances was saved. My plays. Graduation programs. Things I’d long forgotten about, she kept. I was both humbled and touched.
As I was trying to make room in suitcases to get the albums home, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach. Particularly about the album of photos of my great-grandfather. Why was I taking this home? This was selfish. It’s just for me. I’m not passing it down to another generation. Is it nothing more than clutter if it is a bunch of old photos that don’t mean anything to anyone?
As sadness came over me as I considered this. This family ends with our generation. My father said that my grandmother’s siblings have no direct descendants. Nor do my brother or I. What am I keeping these albums for? Does it matter? Who is going to remember any of this once I am gone?
When I got home, I looked through the albums and realized that I also didn’t know the stories about most of the photos. I let the opportunity to talk to my grandmother about them pass me by. I may never know who the people in the oldest photos are.
Why did I take them? Why do I want them?
Because regardless of what someone has to do with them when I am gone, they are dear to me now.
My grandfather while he was in the Merchant Marine. He is a WWII vet.
Another shot of my grandfather.
A blurry photo of my grandparents on their wedding day. I have many clear portraits, but I love this photo from one of my grandmother’s albums.
Now, I have a photo of my parents on their wedding day. (Yeah, I look a lot like my mom. A LOT.)
More importantly, my grandmother used to take photos every Christmas. I don’t know what year this is, but it’s permed, acid washed and mullet-y awesome. And it’s my whole family together. This photo, with its red eyes and ridiculous fashion, is one of the best things I’ve found in the albums. (Look at the smirk on my dad and grandfather’s faces. That is the Liss smirk. It makes me smile to see it.)
I’m not sure how my brother got out of this one, but it does have my little dog Spike and some very poor lighting.
I don’t know how to end this. I don’t know for sure what happens to my family’s history after my brother and I are gone. But I write. I’ve always said that this is my memoir as it happens. I think this may be part of why I write. It is my turn to take on the role of family historian for my grandmother.