A Life Is In The Details

Memories are composed of small details.  I understood that after Pops died.  As I looked through photographs that I had carelessly snapped of his feet or hands or shoes, I realized that those kinds of details are the ones that make a person unique.  Portraits are nice, but what we really remember about a person is the way he holds his hands or wears his boots even after they are worn out.  How he sits.  How he squints.  Every wrinkle in his face is familiar to us.  Our snapshots have preserved them for us.  Photograph the details.  Those photographs will become your best memory of the person who was here once.

Pops always sat with his forefinger on his forehead.  Always when he was thinking about something.  Otherwise, he sat with both hands on his knees.  He wore the knees out on his jeans long before the jeans wore out.  The knees were always lighter than the rest of the jeans.  His father had the same habit.

Pops loved the dogs.  He sat with, napped on the sofa with, and generally always had one hand on a dog.  We had a cat whose name was Dumpy once.  He slept under Pop’s beard when he was a tiny kitten.  When he grew up, he napped behind Pop’s head or curled up under his arm.  Pops was a sofa dweller.  The animals loved him.  They could always find him there when he was at home.  Even the parrot ventured down to the sofa to peck his arm occasionally or to beg for a snack.  Pops was a snacker too.

Details allow us to remember how a person played too.  This photograph doesn’t mean anything to a person who didn’t know Pops or what he was always doing to play with his grandson.  I remember.  Boy will remember too.

Each of us uses his hands differently.  That may very well be the most distinguishing thing about a person.  Pops’ hands resembled an old elephant because the skin was so damaged from the sun.   He also held his hands in a certain way when he was doing something like making a string thingy for Boy.

I suspect that most grandfathers put their hands on the grandbaby’s head.  Pops did.  To this day, Boy tells me to “follow the head” when he wants me to hold onto his head so that I will follow him wherever it is that he wants me to go … immediately, of course.  It’s a joke now, but he loved the game when he was little.

Pops had a characteristic stance.  Here, Boy is trying to duplicate it.  Apparently, Boy can’t get his little fat legs to bend correctly, but he’s doing a remarkable job of following Pop’s directions.  I don’t know that I would have remembered how Pops always stood if I had not snapped this photograph.  The image certainly wouldn’t have been as clear.

This photograph is classic Pops.  The dog is about to get too big for that roost, but she’s giving it a heck of a try still.  Pops watched all kinds of automobile racing all the time.  The dogs watched too.

The zipper was long gone from this boot, but Pops didn’t care.  The dog ate it.  She ate the tops too, but not too badly.  He could wear the boots.  He bought new pairs of shoes of the same kind for when the old ones wore out.  Then, something would always come along to convince him to wear a new pair.  Once he took the new pair out of the box, he got confused and started wearing both pairs.  It was not unusual for him to have two or three pairs of identical shoes in his closet in various stages of wear.  I always wondered how he knew which shoe went with which.  He probably simply put one shoe on each foot and forgot about it.  Pops wouldn’t have concerned himself with such frivolous details.

 Boy often sat so close to Pops that he could rest his foot on Pop’s shoe when they were sitting on the bench outside.

Everybody has a dream.  Pops dreamed of having his own airplane.  He never learned to fly and never bought the airplane.  I really don’t know why he never did.  Anyway, for one of his last birthdays I gave him ah hour’s flight in an airplane.  He sat in the front cockpit and the pilot sat in the back.  He got to handle the controls for a long time.   The pilot was a young woman so I am sure he charmed her right into it.   He loved it.  In the photograph, another pilot is giving him instructions.

This is Rita.  She is an Amazon parrot.  The angle is not flattering to her.  Her head is not bigger than her body in real life.  She was visiting outside one day when she flew down to the ground, walked over to Pops, and climbed onto his shoe for safety.  She sat there for a very long time.   Pops never held her, but he shared snacks with her and helped her to get back up on her perch when some loud noise scared her off.

Typical position for Pops to find himself in.  This cat lived next door with our daughter, but he came over sometimes.  Pops liked him and always sat and petted him and discussed world affairs with him, I suppose.  I don’t pet cats much.   I never saw anybody except Pops put his arm around a cat.  He would sit there with his hand on the cat talking away with the most serious expression on his face.  Apparently, the cat enjoyed the conversation.

Pops kept longhorn cattle.  He started out with two bulls.  One white one and one brown one.  He named the brown one Tom and the white one Jerry.  Tom is a baby in this photograph.  Pops is telling him how big his horns will grow one day and how pretty he will be.  The horns did grow to a huge set and Tom grew so huge and fat that the kids started calling him “Fat Butt” to distinguish him from the rest of the little herd.  Jerry, the other longhorn bull, always came running up to Pops’ golf cart to drink from the iced tea cup that was always in the cup holder.  He would have gotten into the cart too if he’d been smaller. The kids still keep the longhorns, and new babies are born each year.  Some are spotted like the longhorns that you see in photographs from Texas.

Pops bought a pair of reading glasses once.  They had bifocal lenses.  When he tried to read, the page looked lopsided.  The opthamologist told him to buy glasses at Walgreen’s Drug Store since he only required reading glasses.  The problem was that all of the frames were too small for his head.  Never mind.  He simply bought the hinged kind so he could spread them wide enough to go onto his head.  They looked ridiculous, but he didn’t seem to notice.  He always had a pair pushed up on top of his head or pushed down on his nose.  Sometimes, he even looked through the lenses.

 Remember The Hands

Vague, softened and fleeting images of the people who are no longer with us are always in our heads.  And, they are sweet, but it is ever so much sweeter to have recorded memories of the eccentric habits and characteristic details too.  Those images are the ones that make us laugh.  They are the ones that make us happiest in our remembrance of them.  Snap often and well.  You will be happy that you did.

71 Comments on “A Life Is In The Details

  1. I believe our hands reveal a lot about our personalities in how we let them rest, what we decide to touch, or even how we groom our nails. You have such great photographs and these are definitely one of my favorites in your blog.

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    • Thank you so very much. I always snapped my husband because he didn’t care. He paid no attention to the camera. I really can produce a “normal” photograph, but they bore me. Mine are not half-focused and some are at strange angles. Just the way I perceive stuff, I guess. I’m glad you like them. I visited you today and don’t understand a thing about what you are doing there, but I like it. I’ll ask questions when I go back. I found a print on The Canadian Art Junkie’s blog that I like and it looks very much like the ones I liked on yours. http://tinyurl.com/82a742l I buy prints sometimes that are not old. I left a message here for the artist, but I have no idea whether she will respond. I want a signed print, of course, which she may not do! I am unfamiliar with the technique that I saw. Maybe you are. ?? Thanks.

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  2. G this is beautiful. I was thinking about him the other day as I was drinking out of a big styrofoam cup without a lid. This captures him perfectly and I miss him as well. Love you much other mom.

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  3. George…….I think you miss Dean so very much. It is so obvious in many things you say that there was no Dean and George there was only “us”.. I would love to meet the man that stole your heart and captured your silly liberated soul for so many years. A beautiful tribute…..I know your heart had to tug putting these pictures and these words together…but I also know that it is a tug of love and connection…across miles, space, eternity….a connection that is only loosened….for a while…just a while. I love you George…and we have known each other in that other life for certain.

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    • S.E. is a trip. I always love her posts! Even the ones I don’t understand. Thanks for stopping in, Sean. 🙂

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  4. Delightful and touching post , George ! And amazing portraits too.
    Love the unique , writing style that moves you by short simple words .
    A great tribute !

    utham

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    • Thank you, Utham. I never use polysyllabic words when little words will do. I write the way I talk. I can’t help it. Life happens in little words, I think. Unless you are describing some esoteric thing, big words usually make a story more difficult and halting to read. At least, it does for me. I appreciate the compliment. You are always such a sweet man. And, a heck of a good photographer too. What was the beast in high heels? I have to look for him again! 🙂

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  5. George, I have carried this post for days (in my mind and in my heart). Not only have you given us these incredible photographs and these beautiful words and memories of Pops, you have shared such an important life lesson with us. As I’ve said before in response to other posts of yours (much earlier), reading your words and seeing your images makes me so much more conscious of the details in my loved ones’ lives. I know that when I visit my mother this summer, my eye (and my lens) will have an entirely different outlook and purpose, thanks to you. I feel a sense of urgency now. There is so much still to capture.

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    • Yes. We never ask the right questions or photograph the things we remember later. I have so many photographs of Dean because he paid the camera no attention. I could check out some idea on him. He was not self-conscious. Charlie pays no attention to the camera now either. Take lots of photographs of your mom doing what she does. 🙂 Baby Cheeks will love them later too.

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  6. George! Don’t you ever underestimate your photography skills! These are exceptional portraits. They are beautiful, they are very interesting and they are full of love. What an altogether wonderful post, you’ve painted quite a picture with your photos and your words.

    Bravo, I say!

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    • Thank you, S.E. I just snap and go. That’s how I do my whole life … The Snap And Go Method. 😉

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  7. Yes, I love this post. I see a bit of Dad in him as well, the hardened look from a life in the sun, even what I see and you tell of his mannerisms. You are very lucky, my parents’ marriage was like that also for 50 years. Once Dad (or maybe Mom, she ran the joint) they never looked back or around. When I was starting to notice girls once or twice I commented on a very pretty one to Dad, he hadn’t even noticed, Mom was it. I too wish I had known him but, am very glad to have had this introduction from you.

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  8. Like you, Pops is a very likable man, and I can see why you were together all those years. It’s funny, the first thing I noticed about him was his big strong hands, and of course that is what I will take with me from reading your post, or memoir I should call it. I can’t sign off without telling you how much I loved the pictures with him and boy, especially of the two of them leaning against the plane doing man things.

    elisa

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  9. Pingback: Who We Really Are…. « nebraskaenergyobserver

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  11. this made me cry. unfortunately, i’m reading it while sitting in a meeting that i should be participating in… oops.

    but it is beautiful. and also made me miss my dad…

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  12. I’ve been on vacation and came back to read posts I’ve missed. What a beautiful tribute to Pops. Your words and photos blended so beautifully – and here the expression holds true – “A pictures speaks a thousand words.” Thanks for sharing.

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  13. So beautiful. So touching. I loved the way you presented the photos—the spliting of the hands at the end. The close up of the wrinkles and lines. The energy was divine as well. Thank you very much. 🙂

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    • Yep, I think you guys would have been great friends. He enjoyed everything he ever did. He was totally nonjudgmental and had one helluva good time in his life. You’d have liked him.

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  14. Simply a beautiful post on love and memories! You put it well in a comment, “He slipped into my life and he slipped out as easily.” You were blessed with fifty years with him…sometimes that is enough. Thank you for sharing your other soul.

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  15. You have such a gift with both words and images. Each speak to me in different ways. Both magical. The last picture was so evocative. I felt I knew him and missed him. How did you make that happen?

    I noticed his rings. For such a rough-hewn man, those large gold (they seemed gold) rings on each hand seemed odd to me for some reason. I don’t know why I noticed this little detail–maybe it’s because my step-grandfather never wore a ring and he was a weathered character of a man, too.

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    • His skin looks rough and weathered because he was allergic to the sun. He wore a gold signet ring on both hands because he liked them. His skin belies who he was. He was a sophisticated man in the way that I imagine early Americans were. And, he was that rugged individual you see. He spent years in college playing ice hockey and card games and persuading the girls to write his papers. He was fun. I met him at sixteen and married him at Christmas of my freshman year in college. We were together for fifty years. He died at seventy. I just tell stories the way I remember them, Lorna. I write the way I talk. As I said, life is always in the mundane details and never in our grandiose vision of it. 🙂 I’m happy that you enjoyed meeting Pops.

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  16. Oh, George. Thank you so much for sharing this. The photos are eloquent, and your words are more so. It is a moving portrait you paint with them both, and a wonderful tribute to Pops. Your voice and style are unique and compelling. I think you should use them to write a novel.

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    • Naomi, I am glad you enjoyed this little portrait of Pops. I laugh when I get the “edit” prompt. WP wants me to correct my terrible sentence structure all the time. I think I’ll turn off that feature since I am never going to please Miss WP Editor. I would not sound like me if I wrote what she wants me to write. 🙂 Thanks for your always encouragement!

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  17. George,
    This is worthy of so much more than I will be able to offer here. The point where Pops is looking down through his tiny glasses then you insert text and then you seen his hands in the other photo as if he is looking from above (I am assuming these are separate photos and not a single photo separated) is a convention I have never seen done in a blog. The marvelous symbolism of life split and attempted to be seen as it was tore at my heart. I am actually shaken by this whole piece and at once I want to know him more and to simply be there with you to hear you tell me. This is the blog post by which all my other reads will be graded George. Synergy is here as the sum of all your skill, heart, and unmistakable observation shine through in this piece. I can say with surety that I believe this is because your love for him would have yielded nothing less. The depths that we are capable of love are so difficult to measure, yet so easy to see. I am so glad I am sitting in the back of this coffee shop so no one wonders why I have beads of tears across my face. This was simply wonderful!

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    • Ah, Michael, you are a romantic, aren’t you. I met Pops when I was sixteen and married him at eighteen during Christmas break of my freshman year in college. He was the benchmark for men in my head for fifty years. He still is. He is such an integral part of who I am that I lost all sense of where I stopped and he started. I was not heartbroken or even sad when he died. He died at home with me. It was simply time. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t lose him. His failed body left, but he did not. And, I don’t miss him in the traditional way that other women seem to miss their husbands. He slipped into my life and slipped out just as easily. He left few belongings behind. That’s who he was. To say I loved him sounds alien to me. He was me. I sincerely wish the same for you, Michael. Yes, the photographs are separate. I don’t even know if I took them at the same time. Just worked out that way.

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    • Thanks for pointing out the split image thing. I realized that I should balance the sizes of the photographs. I did that, and it works much better. 🙂 You are such an observer. Nothing much escapes your eagle eye, does it? I guess that ability to see is what makes you the adventurer that you are.

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      • When Juliet and I merged I was able to glean a bit of her powers of observation. She is amazing and I am only glad that I may have been able to improve a bit because of her 🙂

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  18. Wonderful post… Memories are great and once again I can understand how precious photographs… I admired you so much dear George, Thank you for sharing with us, it was so nice to meet Pops, you did beautiful tribute post… My eyes filled in tears too… Bless you, dear George. Love, nia

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  19. So beautiful…what a tribute to your special person…and a lesson for the rest of us. Thank you, precious George. 🙂

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    • Scott, he was the man. For fifty years. He was my husband. I met him at sixteen and married him at Christmas of my freshman year in college. We went our separate ways, more like roommates than spouses, but we enjoyed each other. He was literally the other half of me. I think he’s still here! 😉

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      • Resonates deeply here…have been married for 30 and understand…kind of separate, but much enjoyed…and definitely my other half. I’m glad he’s still there for you. 🙂

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    • Yes, when he was fatter, he looked remarkably like Hemingway or Santa. He was about as ruggedly individualistic as a Hemingway character too.

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  20. Such a beautiful and tender post, George…Yes, memories, and always our loved one’s will live on through them, always right there when we close our eyes for an instant.

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    • Yes, JP, you are right. You are capturing moments in time with your traveling photography too, you know. Good luck to you. Are you still in France?

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      • Oh yes, still in France. I’m planning on going for a bit of a walk soon though, see I’m doing a section of the Camino de Santiago for the ‘Nowhereville’ project, and also for a bit of adventure. But I’ll do a post soon, so keep them peeled!

        Again, such a beautiful post…

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  21. Amazing images, and wonderfully written post. My mother crossed over 9 years ago, and I still can’t bring myself to even look at a photograph. But her every detail is permanently etched in my brain.

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    • Now, Dragonfly Girl, take out your mother’s pictures and look at them. You will come to love the memory and the photographs. Trust me on this one. Look at her as she was … a person outside her role as your mother. 🙂

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      • She was always outside the role of mother… she was my best friend. If I am at all wise, or creative, or kind, or spiritual, it’s because of her. And I know exactly what she would say to this comment… if I want to see her, I only need look into my own eyes, and my own heart. And she would be right. She left her body 9 years ago, and moved onto bigger and better things. She was never that body, it just housed her for a time (way too short a time). But it was never who she really was, and looking of a picture of it, will not bring us any closer. I hope you understand what I am saying… I think I might actually be channelling it directly from her, as it seems far to wise to have come from me 😉

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        • I understand completely what you are saying. And, I agree with your mother. She was a very wise woman, indeed. Now that you have described her, I can understand why looking at a photograph of her might produce a kind of dissonance. She was not her photograph. You are fortunate that you can see her in yourself. Thank you for giving me that insight.

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          • You are welcome. That is what she taught me when my grandfather died. She told me that if I wanted to see my grandfather, I should look into my father’s eyes.. and she was right.

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  22. Oh George, what a heart-warming, beautiful tribute post, to a beloved man. The last photo shows gentle, humble, warm eyes, at least that’s how I see him. You made me cry too, but gentle, appreciative tears. Bless you x Charlene

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    • Charlene, Pops was a funny, clever and an interesting man. He lived his life according to his own plan. He had fun. He had no regrets. He was easy to love and hate. Ha Ha He kept me sane. I think he is still here! The old rascal. He was the kind of man you can’t think of without smiling. Glad you liked the little story.

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    • He had a presence all right. He was funny and clever and smart. I enjoyed him for fifty years. I’m glad I was able to present a bit of who he was. The other half of me is who he was. Thanks, Shimon.

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