View Full Version : Do It While You Still Can
John R Smith
04-24-2002, 06:17 AM
Not wanting to be morbid or anything, but . . .
I have been a bit crock recently with back troubles, so I decided to get around to some stuff I could do chair-bound. One of those little jobs was my parents' family photo album.
My mother died in 1987; father passed on in 1993. Our family photo album, leather-bound, had sat on my shelf since then, waiting for me to get around to it. I knew there was a lot needed doing. The album runs from 1910, when my mother was born, through the twenties and thirties when she went to university and met my Dad, includes the War years 1939 to 1945, then post-War Britain and my arrival in 1946.
Lots of the photos had become loose as the photo-corners had become frail and let go. Some pages were blank where the pictures had just been tucked back loosely elsewhere. And there were many other photos which had been intended for the album but had never been fixed in. They were pushed in between blank pages or tucked into old envelopes inside the rear cover.
Until now, my parents' deaths had seemed too close and too painful still, and although I picked the album up and glanced through it from time to time I couldn't quite bring myself to face up to it. But this weekend seemed like the moment, at last.
I bought myself a packet or two of photo-corners, poured myself a beer and waded in. I fixed loose pictures, filled blank spaces, worked out the chronology and found myself re-learning their story. But you know, lots of times no-one had written anything on the back of the photo to say where, when, or who it was. I found myself gazing time and again at a tiny sepia print, thinking "yes, that's Mum, and that's Dad, but who is that? And where are they?"
I can remember sitting with Mum on our sofa as a kid looking through this album. She would tell me who everyone was, where they were on holiday, about the War and the Blitz and rationing. Dad would tell my brother and me about the North African Desert, the invasion of Sicily, Monte Casino, and his friends in the Eighth Army.
They they all are now. Little faded sepia scraps of paper with people gazing back at me, waiting for me to do the right thing by them. And I can't remember their names, or the places. No-one ever wrote it down. The story has gone.
So if you still have your folks, don't put it off. Go and talk to them, share their history and make it yours. Look up those ageing relatives you keep meaning to visit. Maybe even sneakily write some of it down for your kid's benefit. Often the day-today business of our own lives is so pressing that the moment passes and is lost, forever.
Do it while you still can.
You are so right John.
Several years before my grandfather died, I sat down with him one weekend put a tape recorder between us and asked him to tell me everything he could remember about the family and himself.
We filled both sides of three cassette tapes and I learned things about him that I never knew. Wonderful stories about generations past that would have been lost forever. Him growing up, going to war in Europe, getting married and starting his own business. He even had pictures of past generations that would have been thrown out that I have safely stored away.
My brother took the tapes and transferred them to CD format and this last Christmas I gave one to my dad as a present. He had not heard the recordings from his father and it felt good to be able to share that with him.
Get the stories and such now, someday may be too late.
04-24-2002, 09:20 AM
Late last summer, we talked my dad into moving to an apartment closer to us, since he's almost 80 and making a 40 minute trip to visit was difficult for each of us.
While he was cleaning out stuff and preparing to move, he came up with a few batches of pictures that date back to his parents early years (late 1800's).
He collected them and gave them to me, as he seldom looked at them and didn't want to store them.
I got him over to visit one Saturday, and he and I spent most of the day going through each picture and making notes on who people were, where they were and what was going on.
There were a few surprises. Such as, "Oh. That's my dad and his first wife." (heh, runs in the family, skips a generation)
And, "Oh. That's me working on the house I built." That led to about an hour conversation talking about his building the house evenings after going to work. Took him over a year. That was the house I was born into.
That'll be a day I remember for its own merits every time I look through those pictures along with the memories contained in the pictures themselves.
04-24-2002, 09:22 AM
If you can, scan them and make CD back ups. I lost all the photos I had taken over the first 40+ years of my life when our basement flooded.
Staples (staples.com) as a $79 scanner with a $60 dollar rebate right now.
04-24-2002, 02:15 PM
Great thread John
Ive just realised that although not great ones to take pics... just too busy to get around to it I guess who knows... but even so theres piles of photos laying around in boxes and old photo albums of our separate lives before we married of Jo over in Europe me over east and up north muddled up and unmarked no names dates stories and youve just made me realise that maybe its about time I got it together and get it catalogued.
I remember when my grandfather died a few years back over in South Aussie... the family over there sorta went threw all his gear and stuff they didnt want they chucked out... when asked about all his photos... he was in the original Redex trials and had some awesome pictures of them... ohh no one wanted them old things!...
Pop died and left no heratige... he sorta lived and after his 90 odd years just left in his sleep and all those special memories went with him... Ive got all of a dozen photos of him... We talked a heck of a lot when he visited or I visited him but that was a pretty rare occasion... the tape idea is definantly a beauty!
Nana on me dads side left us over 20years ago and I actually have absolutely nothing of her... except the memories in my mind... no film phots or anything that gets me now as sad... she was one of the old tough breed of bush women tough as old nails and could make any tucker taste like a banquet without all the doodads and spices. Gonna have to get onto someone and see if theres any photos about.
Not too many of our mob are photographers most avoid the camera... so photos tend to be landscapes and things happening around us... rarely family... except the hoons who inherit form their old man a love of being in front of the camera... why I am as I am is beyond me!!... anyway... looking at some of the photos layin around my desk amid the noise and jumble very few are marked with dates names and places. :(
Makes sence to get this done after recent events doesnt it!
Will make amends from now on! Thanks John :cool:
Take it easy
04-24-2002, 03:19 PM
Thoughtful and pertinent. My dad worked like mad for so many decades, retired, got sick, and didn't get to do half of what he wanted. Fortunately, he found other things to occupy his mind and time, and was quite happy with most of them, but there was always a twinge of regret until he day he died. It could have been worse. We talked a lot, he and I, and I learned as much as I could from him in the time we had left. We both, in the end, still had time.
What's the slogan the Landing School used to have on their website: I didn't want to work the rest of my life for the day I retire.
Apt words, indeed.
[ 04-24-2002, 04:20 PM: Message edited by: Roger Stouff ]
It's so easy to put these things off--even when you're given fair warning. I'm begging all of you, DON'T DO IT. Don't wait for tomorrow. I'm learning the hard way. My father passed away last July--he was only 54. Knowing his time was going to be short, I knew I had to sit down and talk with him about all the things he may have never told me. I kept putting it off for fear of having to confront him on his death bed. Neither one of us wanted to talk about him dying (we had been through that once and it seemed to be enough for both of us) and asking questions just seemed too awkward. We both thought living in the present & enjoying each other's company was enough. After he died we began the task of sorting through his things. And just as I knew it would be, we found tons of photographs and belongings no one knew anyting about. I think about it now and I can't believe I let all those opportunities slip away.
Only 30 and so many regrets. . . :(
04-24-2002, 05:18 PM
Yes indeed. I've got questions, but it's too late now.
I agree, don't put off today because there may be no tommorrow.
This thread brings up memories and takes me back to a time long ago. I remeber the last time I talked to my Dad, it was Father's Day 1986. I was in San Antonio TX at Camp Bullis going through Air Base Ground Defense School and I hadn't seen my Dad since Feb 2 of that same year. The next I heard of my dad a car engine had fallen on him and he was gone.
Now I still have the memories and the photos. I can vivdly remeber the summers spent working with him as we built house or worked on cars or even cut firewood. You see that was how we spent our time together and I have no regrets. I learned a lot from my dad about an honest days work.
The only regrets are that my wife and daughter will never know him except through my stories. I was only 21 and he was getting ready to turn 44.
04-25-2002, 12:52 PM
Here's one I found just recently.
It's of Uncle Jack's repatriation from a Japanese POW camp. He's recently got on-line and I sent him a digital copy. He didn't know there where any copies left and was tickled to get it.
Oh yeah, that's Mum next to him.
[ 04-25-2002, 01:56 PM: Message edited by: Andrew ]
John R Smith
04-26-2002, 03:04 AM
Gosh, Andrew, I'd forgotten you came from the good old UK. Where was the photo taken? And who are the other people in the shot?
04-26-2002, 12:49 PM
Taken in Redcar Yorks. Back row, Uncle Alf, Aunt Alice, and Iva Jones (he had a thing for Mam). Uncle Jack was captured in the fall of Singapore. At first he was reported as KIA. A Scotish friend of my mother who had "the sight" told her he wasn't dead. A month or so later the Red Cross confirmed his POW status.
PS They're all still with us.
04-27-2002, 10:08 AM
Thanks for this thread. We all miss the loved ones who have departed before our eyes and left holes in our hearts and fond memories that we have to pass to our children.
We are surely next. Today is the day we have before us. We can chose to use it productively or we can choose to squander it. Once gone, the lost opprotunities can never be recovered.
Don't loose these opprotunities to; help, learn, laugh, cry, grow, love, (sand, cut, plane, scrape, shape, bolt, paint) all important boat building/restoration and relationship building/restoration traits.
I started building my boat after recovering from surgery (cancer)almost three years ago (fine now). No more time to waste! Indeed every day is a gift. Use them as such and you will inspire those around you.
04-28-2002, 11:55 PM
I keep telling the youngsters I work with. "do it now", 59 years have gone in a blink and I'm still doing it now. Anne's grandparents and mum came from the Falkland Islands and I used to take a recorder every time we visited grandma, then her mum died unexpectedly and we missed out there. Mum was a great archivist and wrote diaries and labelled photos, aned we get a bit more out of dad every visit. I agree. Do it now.
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