August 11, 2010

Only the images remain

September 17th will be the one-year anniversary of Dad K's death. One of Mom K's requests of me is to put together a book of his photographs. She sent me a box FILLED with poor quality print-outs he'd done from his digital photos. The box also contained a stack of 20 CDs. As I've sorted through the CDs, there are essentially the same 5 folders on all of them. The folder labeled "South Africa" doesn't contain a single photo from the South Africa trip, it's filled with photos of their only grandchild.

So...having gone through everything today, I'm missing all pics of that trip. I'm also missing his award winning photograph. I have pictures of him posed next to it (with a nice flash flare obliterating the image), but not the actual photo. Sigh.

I'd hoped to have a wonderful memento book including older pictures of him. Instead I have the last five years worth of so-so digital photos. Mom K wants to give these away at the anniversary service, but I'm not sure how to shape this blob into a compelling book.

Going through the pictures brings back so many memories. Dad K and I shared a love of photography. Every time we'd go for a hike or an outing, he'd have his big Nikon and I'd have my high-tech point and shoot. Most of the time, I'd take a picture, then he'd come behind me and take the same picture. "LOOK!" he'd exclaim and point at his camera's LCD screen. I'd always exclaim, "Wow, Dad, that's beautiful." He'd wave over my camera and want to see my version. I always said a variation on, "Yours is so much better. You take wonderful pictures." He'd usually nod then fall behind to smoke a cigarette.

Below is one example. I took an image without the flash, trying to get the glow of the yellow leaves (I don't have my image anymore). He just let the flash burn away the gloom.

He did have a decent eye for landscapes, but all of his people photographs have the subject dead-center surrounded by vast spaces of non-interest. I wish he'd been the kind of man to humble himself and take a class to learn the craft of photography. More than that, I wish he'd had a father who'd praised him. No matter how much encouragement my MIL and I poured into him, it was never enough.

Looking at the pictures makes me wistful for many things. In his photographs I see his eye for birds, flowers, sunsets, and people he cared about. There was a sensitive soul in him so battered by life that it shriveled and starved. He exuded so much gruffness it could be hard to find that warmth. He was a man who craved love, yet pushed it away.

I wish I really missed him.


Snickollet said...

That last line really hit me.

Thinking of you, of the K family.

Anonymous said...

Your blog made me realize that I've had more than my share of difficult male in-laws -- your Mother's Dad as well as Dad K.

With both men, I discovered that when I was alone with them in an ordinary situation, I liked them. With your grandpa, it was two days of fitting
replacement windows in a Kansas sharecropper's cabin.

While I have some strange memories of Dad K, I also have some excellent ones --

He was a warm and generous host when he took us out to dinner. And he was a great guy to go with on a morning walk.

There was that one Sunday morning on Staten Island -- when you and I were there for a weekend -- when I went with him on his morning constitutional. We went to the new boardwalk on the south side of the Island. We walked the measured mile and then walked back. I had Muttola with me.

This was a no-pressure situation. There was no occasion for him to assert himself or be competitive or play a role or stress his Korean identity. So, I suppose we were just two boys going for a hike on a chilly, sunny morning.

It's a good memory.