One thing I was right about growing up was the inherent regret I’d have about being born late into my parents’ lives. Not that that was my decision to begin with; I’m not sure that was anyone’s decision, more of a surprise I think. But I knew that the natural order of things would progress their lives a little further in the lives of my older siblings who’d have the luxury of knowing my folks longer than I.
The natural order of things has been a myth to me anyway, having outlived my oldest child and reduced to Thursdays and every other weekend with my beloved remaining two. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t seem right. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just where I landed, somewhere between generations.
My great uncle Alan died on New Years’ Day, ninety five years old. He was the youngest brother of my grandfather who died when I was 13. That’s more like it, more natural. My maternal grandparents had passed on before I was born and I was robbed of the experience of knowing them. That’s not to imply that I knew Uncle Alan. I didn’t. The last time I saw him was at my father’s funeral and the time before that was probably when my dad bought his last Buick at the dealership in Napa.
I used to photograph families. It started with weddings and when I built up a clientele. I was asked to shoot portraits of multiple generations at family reunions, the greatest of which was five. There it would be, lined out in front of my camera, generational benchmarks. And that never really meant anything to me, too focused on focus and getting everyone to look at the lens when I released the shutter.
It means something to me now. Somewhere I have a three-generation shot with my dad, my oldest son, and myself. It’s daunting to look at now being the only survivor. Thank goodness I have another with my dad and Chris, an artifact now of that natural order.
I married into another generation, two, both ways with the greatest generation and Gen-z, and though it wasn’t nuclear, it’s starting to feel natural as in-laws and step kids take me now as one of their own. Despite the love and grace shown and this new definition of family that we’re all learning, there is in me a hole left by a boy and a man and a woman, three of the sweetest people I’ve ever wanted to know more.