During the warmest months I walk barefoot in the backyard, grass between my toes, picking the reddest tomatoes from the garden, smelling my mom’s flowers, but only letting her cut them to put them in vases around the house. I photograph them before as evidence: look how they grew, flourished; also as a necessary reminder for the winter: you can’t see it now as you look outside at the dirt, but they will grow again. I promise.
I take photos of my feet. The lettuce. The squirrels I chase away every morning who have been making a feast from the vegetables. I sometimes take photos of my face, give them a short but thorough look, and then hit delete.
I want to take more photos of my family, together, but wanting to document these moments brings me to tears, as the very situation we are in brings me to tears, every day.
I see my dad every day so I don’t notice the physical changes as others do. His face gets fuller, from the daily steroids he takes to stop the seizures. His belly also grows, but the rest of his body is thinner, bonier. The chemo takes his skin’s color away that on New Year’s Eve he looks gray, all around. The hair falls out around the spot where he gets radiation; it grows back eventually. We know the tumor is spreading when his face gets red; that also means he is in pain. His skin gets so dry it’s cracking so I gently put lotion on him and he thanks me, as he thanks me for feeding him yogurt, or helping him up in his bed, and for every little thing that–of course I will help you with! I will do anything I can! Anything you need!
The one, desperate thing; let me cure you of this.
I didn’t take too many photos of my father during his sickness—or, of anyone really. Maybe I wanted to convince myself that this was temporary, and soon he would revert to the strong, healthy man he was—my Superman as I called him years ago.
The photographs are in my head. ‘They’ say that right now the most recent memories, when he was sick, are the most prominent. But with time you will remember these less, and instead you will be thinking of all the happy times before.
There were times when he couldn’t walk or sit up, so he would lay in bed, and I would pull up a chair next to him, and hold his hand and we would look at each other. He would tell me a story and I would save it in my head forever, urgently wanting to hold onto his every word. He would look at me and say,
“You are beautiful. You are my princess. I love you. It will be ok.”
and I would squeeze his hand a little harder, until he fell asleep.