Family is always on my mind.
It’s kind of hard for it not to be. I’m sure if you ready my posts you might suggest that my business secures a spot front and center when it comes to my brain power. But, me being the only one that is truly in my head, I can honestly tell you that family is always in that spotlight.
Now while my family occupies my thoughts constantly that doesn’t mean that I am boasting in my perfected role as a father. In my eyes I am far from where I need to be when it comes to family. But I can say that my thoughts are there because I have a desire to be that man.
I was raised by a father that kept a focus on family. The sacrifices he made, the gifts he gave, the time he spent illustrated this. I truly did have a great example laid before me when I made the decision to have a family. I am grateful for that.
Another example he laid before me was as a business man. He also owned and operated his own business. While our two ventures are very different, they also share many similarities one of which is the amount of time I spent as a child in his shop and the amount of time my children are spending in my shop.
It was a family business in every sense of the word that he ran, other than that none of his children picked up the craft and took over for him. He was the sole proprietor of that business until the day he passed away. Since his passing I have wondered several times how he felt about that. What I do know is that his door was always open to us kids to help clean, explore, ask questions, and sit on his lap.
Owning a small business in a small town was not a lucrative situation. We did not grow up with wealth, enjoying the lap of luxury. I remember telling how amazing it was as an adult to purchase a 2005 Dodge Stratus just after my wife and I married. It was the very base model, but I really thought we were living the high life because this car was only a year old, had air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, and EVERYTHING worked!
No, we didn’t bask in the latest and greatest but we had so much. Looking back with a mature understanding of income and expenses, I am really quite amazed at what he achieved on the income that was brought in during those times. We did not go without and though I knew we weren’t wealthy, I never felt we were living on a tight income. I can honestly state that I can sympathize with the stress and pressure he lived with having those responsibilities solely on his shoulders.
I had a chance to read an inspired statement of him that expressed his ability to see past the riches the world would offer to those things that are of more importance. Another great example he set for me to keep a perspective of what’s most important in this life. There are always new heights that can be reached, new things that can be had, but is it an investment worth making?
Since my fathers passing I have had opportunities to look back into his life with new perspective. To see his belongings and the path he left behind through new eyes. Not only as an adult with much more experience and insight under my belt, but as a son missing a father and recognizing how much that relationship really meant.
Much of his life was spent at his shop, just as I do at mine. As I recently wandered his shop, looking at the collection he amassed, items collecting dust in storage, and just taking in the character of it all; I thought on his time spent there during the quiet hours of the day.
With his profession being photography I’m sure there was always something to tinker with, test out, a new set of negatives to pick through as he searched for that one shot that had been perfected on his last outing.
But I wonder what is favorite thing was. With the amount of time he spent within those walls, I wonder what the thing was that he would come back to time and time again. That would catch his eye every time he walked past it. That would make him smile again and again, no matter how many times it had made him smile before.
I believe that tonight I recognize what is most likely the answer to that question.
Probably close to six months ago my wife won a photo session at some sort of a raffle. She made the appointment and got us all dressed up for the occasion so that we could go turn in the ticket and get some updated family photos.
I remember being at work when she arrived with my clean outfit to change into. I had some ink on my hands that I tried to scrub out as best I could and I wasn’t the most thrilled to leave because I knew I would have to come back after in order to finish the job I was in the middle of.
We arrived in the orchard and the photographer began placing us and snapping away. You would think growing up as a photographer’s son I would be used to being the subject in the lens, but to this day I still feel uncomfortable having my photo taken.
I remember a few days later picking up the disc of photos for my wife and spending a moment looking through the various family portraits that were taken. I do recall liking the results, but with all that was going on in my life, they were quickly forgotten.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that my wife re-posted one of the family pictures on Facebook, I believe. Upon seeing it again, this one photo just grasped my attention. I can’t pick out one single thing that I just really love about it, but as a whole it has smitten me.
It was quickly placed as my lock screen on my phone and I can honestly say that there has been several times that I have just stared at it, hitting the home button again when the locked screen times out and would go black again.
Having access to a variety of print production capabilities I made up a stretched canvas print, nice and large, and hung it on the wall in my office this afternoon. I placed it next to my desk so that it would be easy for me to see at any time. What I didn’t consider, but soon discovered, was that it was also very visible through the window of my office from the production floor. I found that just moments ago as I was setting up the press for a run that would take me late into the night.
I wasn’t excited for what lay ahead, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do, and these needed to be printed tonight so that they would have enough time to dry enabling them to be cut and packaged tomorrow.
As I stood beside my press and reached to wipe down the blanket in preparation for the first sheets to run through, my eyes fixated on the photograph on my wall. Again I fell in love with the image my eyes saw. My wife has a beautiful, natural smile on her face. My daughter standing in front of us just oozing cuteness and joy and my son sitting in my arms with a very handsome gaze that is just off to the side of where the camera is. My guess is that he spotted some motorized something in the distance that intrigued him.
In that moment it energized me again to do what I needed to do, because that was what I was doing it for.
Although printing is my profession, that photograph on the wall will forever be my greatest work.
And therein lies the answer to my question. When you wander my dads shop, among his beautiful landscape images, animal portraits, and other pieces that made up his portfolio as a photographer, there are scattered in shots where his family was the subject. Weddings, school pictures, and more.
I remember being on location with him once. I was probably around the age of six or seven and had been dressed in period attire and sat on the steps of an old ghost town building. I can visualize that photograph, matted and framed, placed among the others.
I feel confident in saying that those images were among the things that he cherished most. The things that would catch his attention and hold it for a moment. That would bring a smile to his face again and again. I am sure that those were among the pride of his portfolio and took the podium when the points were tallied for his life’s greatest work.