My dad died, quite suddenly, in 2009.
He was a bit of a hoarder. Not a hoarder as in a room full of pizza boxes kind of hoarder, but he had a hard time throwing things away. His father once discovered a shoe box full of every Hong Kong commuter tram ticket he’d ever received. He road the tram daily.
He was an avid cook and many ease-inspiring gadgets crossed his threshold. Anyone remember the cubed hard boiled egg maker?How about the metal plate that was designed to defrost food faster without a danger of spoilage or hazardous microwaves. As seen on TV!
We spent an evening on summer holiday, stopwatch in hand, witnessing two chicken breasts thaw. One on a dinner plate and one on this magic disk. He swore it was faster until my next time to visit when the disk was stashed. My inquiry was met with a look that said it was bullshit.
In his safe (another story for another time) was a box containing his old wallets dating back to the 70s. Given that he used things until their ultimate demise, this meant there about 7 wallets total. But they were still filled. Old business cards, cash, Elder beerman credit cards, photos, film processing receipts.
He was an award winning photographer. He had hundreds of cameras and associated gear.
He would read all he could about photography and gear, too. Or he tried to. He worked long hours. He’d often come home in time to catch the 11pm news, finish his reheated dinner and recline on the couch with a photography magazine in hand. He was asleep in minutes, the magazine splayed open on his lap.
Growing up, our basement filled by the month, with issues of photography magazines. He installed shelves for them all. Someday, maybe there’d be time to get through them.
My mom, nesting and awaiting the delivery of my brother, intervened. Throwing them away while my dad was away at a meeting. Neither one to yell much, when he came home you could hear them through two floors late at night. It was as if she’d gambled away one of his kidneys and lost.
After he died, my mom never canceled the subscriptions. She’d let them collect for a while and then move them on. After she passed, we did the things they tell you to do. Call social security, call the lawyer, forward the mail and cancel subscriptions.
I swear we cancelled all the magazine subscriptions. But, the photography mags kept coming. The expiry date on the mailing label was September 2017. Why would anyone have a decade long subscription? My guess is that he feared missing out so much and so renewed whenever they sent him a renewal notice. Back then that seemed to happen quarterly.
I was miffed at first. It was a monthly painful reminder of a loss. They came and it hurt. I thought about calling to cancel them again, but I stopped myself. Why not let them come?
And so they have. For nearly 4 years they came to me in the US. These last few years, they’ve followed me all over the globe. I take them along on trips and leave them when I’m done. I’ve sprinkled them all over the Middle East and the South Pacific.
Dutifully, I leaf through each one. I read about all the photo tech. I read about editing and lighting. Sometimes, I even doze off with a magazine in my lap. I must say I think my photography has improved immensely.
He was always trying to teach us. About lots of things, but often about taking pictures. Why a certain picture was good and another great. Maybe that’s why the magazines kept coming. Maybe there was more to teach?
Next month, 8 years later, the last issue will arrive. And that has been the measure of my grief. Issue by issue, page by page, shot by shot, The subscriptions will expire. I haven’t received a renewal request from any of them. That’s how I know it must be time.