My cousin found this photograph of my father in his basement and sent it to me.
I immediately admire the vintage quality of it.
He is handsome. Virile. Very natty.
I study the photo.
I recognize him. But I do not see him. I cannot see him.
This young man predates my memory.
I can, however, see him sitting at the head of our mahogany table having breakfast. Under the window facing the willow in the back yard. I still remember looking at him that day. How funny and silly he was. How close I felt.
I see him when he came to visit me in England. In his green cardigan and pleated corduroy pants.
I see him walking with Sam across our big open expanse of grass. Holding his hand. Leaning down to tell him about the this and that they’d see along the way.
I see him in Sonoma trying to clean the pavers on the patio but filling the courtyard with towering bubbles. Which made him giddy and Lily and Sam wild with laughter as they ran in circles to squish the bubbles.
I remember him in the house in Florida when I put my Walkman headphones on him and he wiggled and danced in place. Never moving from the pink couch. Manhattan in his hand.
I remember sitting on his bed watching him nap after the doctor told me that his heart was like an old antique car coming to the end of its automotive life.
But I don’t remember this beautiful GQ man circa 1930.
And when someone sends my daughter a picture of me circa 1970, she won’t be able to see me either.
She will remember me now. At this age. In this time. In bits and pieces. And not the most attractive bits and pieces.
I’m sad that she never knew me as a young, gangly girl. Never saw me walking with my friends kibitzing on campus. Won’t remember me rushing around New York as a heady advertising exec. Will never remember me arranging her stuffed animals on her first big girl bed.
She won’t remember me then. When I was closer to her age now.
There were photos of course. But it’s not the same.
She’ll remember parts of me today. And hopefully tomorrow. Twenty years from now.
When I’m not quite able to do all the things I used to do. Or even can do now.
Without the same sparky energy.
Taking longer to stand up. Longer to sit down.
Making sure my dresses cover my arms and knees. Wearing flat shoes.
Sporting little wrinkles over my lips. A chin that seems to be melting.
She won’t really see me in the photo that someone has sent her from 1970. Just like I can’t see my dad from 1930.
But she’ll remember. My laugh. The bubbles I made in her life.
She will still see me walking from a distance and just know it’s me.
The inside stuff of me. How I made her feel.
Maybe she won’t recognize me in that old photo from my youth.
I accept that.
As long as she can wrap herself in the snapshots. the times she can remember. And the stories.
And…on occasion…feel me dancing right next to her as she stirs the pasta on a Tuesday night.