Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story by Kate

There’s no place like a funeral to meet your fiancé’s extended family.

This past weekend I traveled to Florida with Andy’s family for his grandmother’s funeral. Walking into the visitation, I found myself in a selfish panic. Which comes first—“Nice to finally meet you” or “I’m so sorry for your loss?” Is hugging appropriate? Would they notice the hole in my blouse? Were people going to cry? Dear God please no weeping strangers. But they warmly welcomed me and the whole thing turned into a bittersweet family reunion, as funerals often do.

After the service we went back to Andy’s grandfather’s house, where photo albums were conveniently strewn. The family started reminiscing, and after a day of trying not to cry, they let a few much-needed tears of laughter slip out.

At one point I was sitting alone on the couch and Andy’s grandfather backed into the empty spot next to me. I didn’t quite know what to say, so I picked up an album, assuming that pictures of his grandkids at Christmas would lead to an easy conversation. But I opened the book to find a collection of photos of his late wife. Not exactly what I had planned. I tried to gauge his reaction, and he nodded, as if to say, “Go ahead. I’m ready to talk about her.” I flipped through the pages as he narrated—there were old black-and-white images of her in sundresses from before they were married, faded pictures of her pushing their kids in a stroller, recent ones of the pair holding hands and wearing matching blue T-shirts at their 60th anniversary celebration (60 years!). Every photo had an anecdote—sometimes about his wife and sometimes about the cabinets behind her, the baby she was holding or the vacation they were on. He got wistful once or twice, but mostly the fond memories made him laugh—and oh, how an old man’s laughter is contagious. When we got to the album’s end I realized that without knowing it, Andy’s grandfather had treated me to an old-fashioned love story.

His grandson and I have a love story too. It began a few years ago, and I commit to documenting it with pictures—real, printed-out pictures that go in albums, not iPhoto libraries or desktop folders. I’ll keep them in order, scribble names, dates and places on the backs and slide them into books that I pull out on special occasions.

I can only hope that 60 years from now I’ll have the chance to sit on a couch, flip through a photo album and tell some wide-eyed kid about how much fun I’ve had with my husband. But since I get to imagine this scenario however I want: It won’t follow a funeral, and Andy will be sitting right beside me—because frankly, I’d rather die first.

click on the image to enlarge

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down and out chic said...

oh my goodness kate, i love this series (LOVE this). wow that almost made me cry and that last photo is just fantastic.

In The Cottage said...

How beautiful and tender!

Claire Kiefer said...

so saddddddddd