Turn the camera around

Arthur - May 5, 2009

It started with photography and a conversation over lunch. “I back up all my photos to an external hard drive and also to the cloud,” a fellow amateur photographer said. “That way if my house goes up in a fire, or a burglar comes and snatches all my computer equipment, including external hard drives, I won’t lose my photos.”

I got home and took a good hard look at my 15 x 10 x 1/2 in metal case with a keyboard that contains most of my life’s work. If I had a catastrophic digital failure of some kind, I would lose my genealogy, videos of my grand kids, photographs, and all my writing. My life’s work contained in this slim piece of metal.

Sure I back it up to an external hard drive. But is that really enough to protect against the devastation that the loss of what is stored inside would cause?

That led to yet another diversion from writing my dad’s book, as my daughter so nicely pointed out in a phone conversation. “Maybe you are trying to avoid something,” she said.

That may be true. But I still need to formulate and execute a better back-up plan. And I need to sort through my files, consolidate, and edit them down. Another motivation that drives me forward is the thought that my husband or kids would have to deal with my computer if something were to happen to me. How can I expect them to deal with all the photos, videos, and documents I have loaded it up with? I don’t want to deal with it myself.

So I started sorting through my old recorded videos and came across one that I took at my sister’s house for a celebration of Mom’s birthday in May of 2009. We had just gotten Arthur and he was playing with my sister’s new puppy. I spent over 13 minutes that day recording Arthur. On the video, like an unobtrusive soundtrack running in the background, my parents are talking all the while.

I hear my mom say my name, but the rest of what she says fades out. I hear her laugh. “My brother had a dog,” my dad says, “and he named him Blue.”

And I wonder, why didn’t I, even once, turn the camera around?

14 thoughts on “Turn the camera around”

    1. I’m glad I’m not alone. It’s just that now that they’re gone, I really yearned to see my parents’ faces. Modern technology adds a new element to the grieving process.

  1. I got all choked up at the end of this. We do miss so many opportunities and yet, I want to go out without regrets, focusing whether my inner or outer lens on what I did do, did hear, did say. Otherwise despair would swallow me whole.

  2. It occurs to me reading this that I’d have no idea how I’d react to hearing the sound of my mother’s voice on a recording. My late brother’s voice remains on my sister-in-law’s answering machine though.

    1. It’s a small way to hang on to the past. I found a few audio recordings my dad made, unbeknownst to me, in his computer files that I have archived on my laptop. I thought the wav files were just mistakes he had made by saving a song or audio clip accidentally. Before deleting them, I recently clicked on them and out came his voice describing photographs he had saved in the folder with them. It wrecked me for an hour or so. I never knew he had done that.

      But, I think down the road, or at least I still hope, that hearing his voice on tape will bring me comfort. I have quite a few audio tapes from when I interviewed him for his story. Mom is on there too. I haven’t been willing to listen to them yet, though.

      I hope things are getting easier for you. I feel like I turned a corner a couple of weeks ago——more than 18 months after their deaths. It gets easier, but it does take time.

  3. Because you’re human. Because you didn’t realize years later there was an opportunity. Because you thought the opportunities would come again.

    More importantly, you have what you have and it’s precious too. It’s a good question, but the better takeaway is how nice it is that you have a video of Arthur as a puppy. Those are always good for laughs!


    1. You and me both. I get caught up in the projects, and then exhausted, afterwards just leaving the mess and moving on to the next thing. With genealogy, photography, and writing all active interests, I have generated quite a few files. Many of them, as I’ve recently discovered, are in triplicate on my computer. It feels good to sort things out and organize everything, but it is extremely time-intensive. I just hope I can see it through to the end, so I don’t have to restart the process in the middle sometime in the future.

      I have to admit, Arthur was a little darling. When one of Anna’s friends first met him she said, “He’s not a pet; he’s a stuffed animal.” He was as soft as he looks.

  4. I have so much to sort through. It’s hard to be neat when you’re hurrying to move forward. But then, when you want to go back and find something, the necessity sinks in.

    Watching videos I have of my late husband turned out to be such a disappointment. I must have been expecting too much. Still, I’m sure I’ll be glad to have them some day.

    1. We understand each other, it seems. But that’s pretty much the way I live my life: make a mess of things with a project, then eventually go back and clean it all up. I don’t know how my husband tolerates me.

      I’m sorry about the disappointment with the videos of your husband. I don’t know how long he’s been gone, but I also believe you will be glad you have them some day.

      Right now the pictures, audio tapes, and videos still make me feel sad. Hopefully, and I expect it to be true, that will change with enough time. Mark’s father died in 2008. He was a dear man. I recently started a video that he was on (as I was organizing my computer movie files), and I didn’t feel sadness so much as love.


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