There I was out in my garage with tears streaming down my face, desperately searching. Searching for my sanity first of all, but second of all, searching for 3 small boxes that I was praying to find. Why? Because I’d looked everywhere else that morning and I couldn’t remember for the life of me where I had last seen them.
But there they were, stacked on the floor between some other boxes. And my panic subsided.
6 years ago today, my dad passed away. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already. Sometimes it feels like it was just a year ago, but when I think about where I was back then in comparison to where I am today, I know that so much time has passed.
I’ve been looking at the same photos of my dad for years now. The same ones I have stored on my phone and uploaded to Facebook. I realized my memories were being reduced to just those few photos. That’s when I remembered I had those boxes of photos. So I went in search of them.
The first spot I checked, my office closet, turned up nothing. That’s where I would’ve thought they’d be since pretty much all my junk is in here. Then I checked the bedroom closet but that’s stuffed to the ceiling with suitcases and bins of accessories I haven’t used in years. I started to worry.
I went out into the garage and turned on the light. They had to be out here somewhere, I thought, this is the only other place they’d be. As I shifted boxes around, I felt the tears welling in my eyes and sobs escaping my throat. I need to find them, I thought. I need to find him.
When we lose someone before we’re ready, our brains freeze that person in our memories. They neither grow older, nor change. No new memories are created, and only old ones remain. This morning, I found myself reliving the same 6 or 7 snapshots over and over again. But I desperately needed different ones. I don’t know why, maybe I just wanted to feel like seeing photos of him that I haven’t looked at in a long time would awaken feelings of newness.
And there, in the shadow of a stack of plastic storage boxes, I could see the silhouettes of three small photo boxes, one was a glossy white and two were a flat maroon color. There they were. I lifted them out of the shadows and carefully carried them into the house, wiping the tears from my cheeks. I set them down on my kitchen table and started going through them. I remember I had started organizing them with index cards based on general topics, but half of them were still left unorganized, a project long since forgotten. It did not take long to find what I was looking for.
I thought I would feel better. But as I stared at these old pictures of him, I realized that’s all they were: old pictures. And they would always be that way, no matter how long I put them out of sight. They would not fill the hole left by him when he passed away. I felt disheartened mostly because I wonder if anything ever will.