Keeper of the Pictures

I am the keeper of the family photos. I think most families have someone like that – I have a dusty suitcase filled with snapshots of people I do not know.

I also have a hard drive full of photos Dad had started scanning, as well as the pictures from his iCloud account I downloaded when he died. There is no organization at all.

My dad liked to take pictures.  Of everything.

When he was young, his pictures were more artistic. He wouldn’t have used these terms, but they were his creative outlet – his art, if you will. We were poor as dirt until I was a teenager, so money spent on film and developing was money that took from other things.

As he got older and digital cameras became common, he moved more into documenting in addition to creating. So I have countless pictures of some store he visited on a road trip. Or a piece of woodworking he admired and thought he might want to try some day. Or receipts he needed to submit for reimbursement.

I have like 30 Gig of pictures I need to sort though, most of which aren’t important at all. It’s a little overwhelming.

But I get the urge, sometimes, and I decide that the first thing I will do is just delete the photos that nobody will ever, ever need.

Pictures of receipts. Odometers. Random signs. Such as that.

Last night, I got such an urge and was clicking through them, deleting with abandon, when I came across a picture that stopped me cold.

It was a row of bottles of juice of various kinds: Orange, grape, apple. No context. No captions. Totally random.

But it wasn’t random to me. I know what’s going on here.

A thing you have to know for this to make sense is to know that Mom was in a bad car wreck 25 years or so ago, and it hurts her to stand for long periods of time. So, when there was something where you had to stand in line, often Dad would do it for her.

I said no context, but that’s not totally true. It was one picture in the middle of a bunch of pictures from about 10 years ago, when he and Mom went on a trip to Texas for a family reunion for Mom’s family. And the picture before this one was of a serving table full of food, like you would see at a potluck.

So what this picture tells me is that he stood in line to get them some food, and when it came time to pick a drink, he didn’t know what she would have wanted. So he took this picture to take back to her so she would know what juice options were available.

It’s the most Dad thing ever. He wouldn’t have wanted to make a mistake. And Mom isn’t predictable like that. So he took a picture so he could let her pick.

I have seen this exact scenario played out dozens of times. I can write the scene; I know it so well. He was so kind he wouldn’t want to take a chance on getting something this small wrong.

And just like that, I realized I wasn’t ready to delete this picture. Or any pictures.

So I close the folder one more time. I’ll try again later.


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