Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Roll of Film

When my grandfather, my dad’s step-father, passed away, there was an old camera with his belongings. My dad thought I might be interested in having it (I was – my film camera has taken a beating), so he brought it to me the last time he visited.

I took it to the camera shop to see what it needed – new battery, a little cleanup, but other than that, it was fine. Also, it had a roll of film in it! About half of it had been used, 11 pictures taken. Oh yeah, and it would cost $12 to develop it. Ugh. I decided to not make it a priority (we have to eat) and waited ‘til pay day to send the film out.

Pay day came and went, and so did the film. I spent the next week wondering what would be on that roll. We had a family reunion before Grandpa passed away, and I thought he may have snapped pics then. It was nice having him close to me that week, in my thoughts, with this little mystery. Part of me hoped he had taken some award-winning shot that we could publish posthumously, and I amused myself with thoughts of what the photo would be each day I passed the camera shop on my way to bring E to day care.

Would the photos be of something epic? Simple? Epic in their simplicity? I had a calm patience about waiting for them.

The day arrived, and I went to pick them up. I had ordered a CD, so I had to process them on a computer at the camera shop to get a set of prints. I sat down and looked through the photos on the screen: one of a shoreline with something moving in the water (an alligator from his and Gram’s trip to Florida maybe? a turtle?); hummingbirds on a birdfeeder; a blossoming tree with their dog, Pearl, sleeping beneath it; a close-up of Pearl in the shadow of the tree.

I brought my photos to the front desk and chatted with the cashier, who knew the background story.
“It’s funny what people take photos of,” I said. “My grandfather was an artist, a good photographer and painter, and the last photos we have from this camera are of a blossoming tree, birds, and his dog.”

Another customer came up to the counter, and I could imagine the cashier thinking, “Ok, move along lady… enough about your grandfather.” But he stopped, looked up at me, and said quietly, almost under his breath: “Everything we do as humans is driven by emotion.” He turned from me and went back to work.

“Oh, ok,” I thought and nonchalantly walked out the door. Then I stopped. “What…?” I mean, even as I patiently waited an entire week for these photos, was part of me expecting something more epic? Could it really be that simple? He just took photos of things he loved.

I flipped through them over the next few days, looking for something, some message... a gift, a lesson? I felt there was a reason I had these photos.

My grandfather had seen all the best and worst the world had to offer. He was a gruff man, and we often saw his angry side. But I always knew and saw glimpses of a man who had great love in his heart, too. I always hoped that he could see the world the way I do – in a sometimes naïve way, but with love and hope.

And so I decided that the gift of these photos was a simple one. A knowing. I know that men who have given up, who have pushed the world out, don’t photograph blossoming trees or hummingbirds on a bird feeder. They don’t pay attention to the fact that their dog managed to find one tiny patch of shade in a field of sunlight or enjoy watching her rest in the cool grass.

But I do. And now I know that he did too -- that, on some level, we're the same. And I think that's kind of... amazing.


Rabia Lieber said...

I think that no matter what's on the roll, a person's last roll of film is something awesome!

AdminG said...

Thanks, Rabia! Can't believe I just saw this message! Thanks for reading!