Taking the Long View

Grief is seriously unreasonable sometimes.

Last night I found myself getting annoyed with the photos I took in my teenage/twenty-something-years. And no, it wasn’t because of my fashion choices, though some of those were suspect. (Hello high-waist jeans and flannel shirts.)  I am talking about the subjects of these photos, or lack thereof.

So very few of these photos include my mom.

There are countless pictures of high school shenanigans. And don’t get me started on my twenties. My twenties were basically a series of pictures of cats. (Those years were rough.)

Gosh, I wish I had taken more photos of my cat.

 But my mom? There were hardly any photos of my mom. Hello, how could I have not known that those would be the last few years she would be healthy and vibrant?!

Heck, I would even be happy with some mom-daughter selfies. That’s right, I was pining for some way up close, slightly-blurry photos of me and my mom hamming for the camera.

But let’s be real: even if I had been taking selfies in my early-twenties I doubt that many would have included my mom. There would have been a series of Sarah plus cat selfies, and Sarah plus questionable-choice-of-boyfriend selfies, and on and on.

I get it: hindsight is 20/20. Plus, your teens and twenties are supposed to be egocentric. You are focused on your own development outside of your little family unit. This is good. This is healthy.

I realize what I am asking of myself is unreasonable. But grief is unreasonable sometimes, isn’t it? 

So there I was, stewing over these photo albums, when I remembered a photo I recently came across. It’s a picture of my parents with some friends at the beach, probably taken in the early ’70s. They are maybe twenty-two, twenty-three years old, and they look ridiculous. (Dad, is that a perm? ) And I am just going to say it: my mom looks smoking hot. She is wearing ultra-short cut-off denim shorts and her hair is long and flow-y and (out of a bottle) blonde. She looks amazing.

This picture is the epitome of youth.

It dawned on me that these photos of me, these silly ridiculous photos of me goofing around with friends, wearing my chucks and flannels and dark lipstick—these photos hold value that I can’t see with my griefy-eyes.

These are photos of a mom, just not the mom I was looking for last night.

Someday my own daughter will certainly laugh, and possibly even treasure, these albums.* And yes, I will too, when I am not looking past them in search of something else.

Sometimes you just need to take the long view of things.

*Except for those cat photos. Not sure anyone will ever treasure all those cat photos. 

If you can relate to the struggle of never having enough photos of you and your late parent, I’d love to hear your experience too.

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