January 31, 2016
My Dad, who is 87 and has dementia, seems to be always asking about his uncle Everett: “How’s Everett doing?” The question is sincere. It often comes with strained facial muscles.
Everett is 90 and has “gone downhill” a lot this past year. It’s unclear how much he understands. He has trouble speaking. He no longer recognizes most people.
Dad wanted to see him.
So, yesterday I picked up Dad, and we, along with Xerx (my dog), drove to Chatfield to see Everett. Would Everett recognize Dad?
As I pushed Dad down the hallway in his wheelchair, Cynthia, Everett’s daughter, pushed Everett towards us. As they came within sight of each other, Cynthia said to her Dad, “See who’s come to visit you!” Everett looked up, saw Dad, and a big smile came to his face.
We parked their wheelchairs in the lounge next to, and facing, each other. Dad’s never been a conversationalist. Less so now with dementia. Everett simply is not able to. So they sat. Other family was there – occasionally trying to promote conversation. It wasn’t going to happen.
At one point, I lifted up Xerx so Everett could see him better. Xerx doesn’t like to be held. He usually fights it. This time he didn’t for some reason. When Everett lifted his hand, Xerx put his nose to it and gave it a lick – probably expressing in that one gesture what we all wanted to express.
Afterwards, as we drove away, I asked Dad what he wanted to do. He said he didn’t know. He probably didn’t. His mind was on Everett. Knowing he likes to just drive, that’s what we did.
At one point I remembered a house I had found last summer and wanted to photograph in winter. The sky and snow were perfect. I wondered if I could find it.
The house sits in what is now a pasture in a slight valley, with a stream nearby.
The gate was open so I took advantage of the “open door” and criss-crossed the pasture taking various shots.
There are some who would question why I would photograph such a house. In real estate, there’s a phrase realtors use to put a positive spin on a house that needs a lot of work. They say it has “good bones” meaning the structure is good. I’ve never heard a realtor say a house has bad bones. This one has bad bones.
After photographing and getting back in the car, I said to Dad, “It would be awesome if that house could speak. The stories it could tell. The smell of apple pie baking in the kitchen. Children running through the yard playing hide and seek. A mother tucking the kids into bed at night as the colors of the setting sun streamed in through the west facing windows.” As Dad listened, he leaned forward to see the house better. A smile came. He nodded. He saw.
It’s why I photograph bad-boned houses.
And old men.
If the old bones could talk.
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