Saturday, February 11, 2012
Archive of Omissions part 2
Sitting in the overstuffed swivel chair next to my dad's bed during my Christmas visit, a visit that would become our last, he asked me to hand him the box that was just inside the closet door. An old wooden cigar box with one side missing. Like the special box a child would use to collect keepsake treasures, it held a curling stack of snapshots, yellowed and nestled with age, along with bounty from his Navy travels; foreign beer bottle labels, Korean and Italian dollars, UAW card, birth certificate. . . He pulled out each and every item, all equally precious. He told me about the photos. He said that he would have stayed in the Navy if he hadn't met my mom. He said that he didn't ever plan on having a wife and kids.
I look at these pictures differently now that my dad has died. How to reconcile the images of a young man full of anticipated adventures and the promise of all that lay ahead with the man I knew as dad? Family photos exist within the imagetext of the familial gaze. I look at these pictures and they look back at me. What is said in this mirrored exchange, what is unspoken but implied within the space between the looking and the being looked at, is hard to understand separate from the cultural definition of family. I look closely at the small details; the arm around the shoulder of a person not seen, a buddy in one image and a wife and child in another, to understand what is really going on. I study the expression in my dad's face and body.
Here I have removed the other to focus on the one; to make these images reflect my dad's words. Interrupting the narrative and re-imaging, re-imagining, the story to reflect another truth.