Last night I bladed along the sea just as the sun was setting. Here I am, living on the coast of la mer magnifique (Mom, are you closing your eyes tightly and shaking your head?)and yet its every sunset reminds me of evenings perched on the rolling dunes of Lake Michigan. As involuntary as my heartbeat, when I see God’s breath turn the sky from blue to hued, the words “Oh Mom!” escape me. Thank you for seeing and for insisting that we see too! I can hear ‘Oh LOOK Tel!” “Oh LOOK Francie” “STOP TEL! I must take this picture!”
Yes. And even your stroke couldn’t stop you from that.
Flash flash through my red walk, our Renault chugging up a Swiss mountain and Mom saying “STOP!” and leaping out with camera in hand; Indian women at dawn pounding their clothes on the rocks, “Oh the light! Stop dear!”; and always flowers: poppies, heather, baby’s breath, cardinal flowers; and her last hurrah of sunset after sunset in Michigan with Dad pushing the button.
Yes. When Mom was stroked and control of her right side obliterated, her three expressions were instantly and forever denied her, we thought. Writing, piano playing and photography. She never regained the physical ability to write or play the piano but she zeroed in on her camera with might. She grew to a place of being able to hold the camera in her hand but never up to her eye, and as she was not an ‘automatic’ photographer, could not adjust the lens or push the final button.
Dad, who never had an eye or inkling about photography beyond his adoration for what Mom produced, offered to help. The weepy protests, the frustrated insults, finally finally led to Mom being open to his offer. Trial and error, trial and error, more tears, more demeaning remarks, Dad cheerfully held his own and insisted, evening after evening in front of Lake Michigan sunsets.
They mastered it! They did. The most incredible, beautiful team to behold. The sight of the two of them would swing any artist into his heart. Mom would point and position herself. Dad would place the camera in front of her eye. She directed him and when all was aligned, he pushed the button and CLICK. Mom made three calendars in those years that sold in shops all over Michigan.
All of this because of a sunset!