Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grandpa Lee

Leo J. Lee. Christmas or Thanksgiving 2004. 35mm b&w film.  (c) Sadie Lee 2004.
I took the above picture as a senior in high school.  I was in a black and white photography class. I used my dad's old brick of a Cannon SLR for the class, where there is no such thing as an automatic setting.  I wasn't so good at choosing the best camera settings, but what I lacked in the shooting process I learned to make up for in the development process.  I cropped this print down from a larger picture which actually includes my uncle to the right.  I think they were playing cribbage as the family is wont to do at gatherings like these.  I made several test prints of varying sizes and played around with making it lighter or darker.  This is the print I actually turned in for a portrait assignment.  My name and class period are still penciled on the back.  I have a duplicate larger print framed somewhere among my things in Idaho.

I love this picture.  I put in in a little black frame and took it with me to college.  It sat on a shelf or desk or hung on a wall in every aparment I lived in.  It's sitting on my dresser right now.  I like it because he doesn't know anybody's looking.  If he knows his picture is being taken he gets self concious, sets his lips in a thin, tight half-smile, and sort of looks out of the corner of his eye as if to say "You done yet?"  But this picture is how I see him in my head.  Relaxed, thinking about something, white hair carefully combed, plaid flannel shirt, probably wearing suspenders, sitting in the old house down the street with the red shag carpet (even though Grandma replaced that carpet 15 years ago).

I don't think Grandpa ever saw this picture.  He would probably be embarassed, call me Ol' Sade, peer at it and say "Who's that old cotton picker?"  And then I'd laugh at his political incorrectness and modesty.

Grandpa Lee died last Tuesday sometime in the night.  He went into the hospital last month the day before my birthday from things that come with old age and being sick.  He eventually got released to go back home, but that episode was an intense reality check for me.  I finally realized he wouldn't stick around on earth forever.  I had a merciful month to get used to the idea before Mom called me with the news last week.  I thought it would be a terrible moment, but it really wasn't.  More just, sad... and peaceful and reassuring and like everything is fine, because it is fine.

I only really get down about it when I think about the things I'll miss having him there for like reunions, and Christmas, and my wedding, and my future children.  I hope my older cousins appreciate how much of their lives and their children's lives they got to share with this guy.  I'm sure he'll still be there for all my special times and so will Grandma, but the camera won't see them.  Thank heaven for memories, friends, Grandma Helen, and other family to keep him alive in our hearts until we can join him for eternity.

Headstone, Moyallen Quaker Meeting cemetary, Ireland. (c) Sadie Lee 2010.

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