The only one.
This is the only picture I have of my daughter from near the time that Gavin died. I think I took this the next day, or two days after we all left the hospice facility, broken, relieved, disoriented. June 2006. Of course I know the anniversary, but not exactly when the picture was taken because, of course, the digital camera calendar was a few weeks ahead, or behind, or somehow mixed up the entire time.
I looked for this picture for a long time. There are a few others from that year but none that were memorable, and this one, only because I’ll always associate the moment this shutter clicked with my desire to preserve one still moment in the blur of everything the days and weeks before and after he died. I was happy to forget the few months leading up, when a few pictures had been taken of him weak, lying on the futon in the living room, and a few bland shots of Christmas we sleepwalked through.
There are pictures of the trip she and I took right after the memorial service, and some from her first days in day care, later that summer. Most of that time was lived in a fog, some of it with others around, most of it alone, overheated, praying someone would take a nap, wishing I were paralyzed. These pictures tell some fuzzy story about loss and then short tales of change, trying to escape, new experiences. This one, I remembered, was the only one to simply record a moment of life, an actual mood or memory.
And I wanted, increasingly as I got stronger, to remember what I’d felt like, how we’d lived then. It was easy enough to share some narrative: one about the loss (horrible, inevitable, sad in the proscribed way), the second about how we were learning new things (positive, brave, led by a secure child). The stories were sociable and appropriate. I wouldn’t learn anything from seeing the pictures of those days.
Any picture of her at age two and a half would help validate me as a survivor. I craved that proof. I mean, she’s wonderful, but we were alone in hell: grieving, the diapers, no naps, the heat of summer, the fights to get into the carseat… did it really happen without any visual record? I needed it but didn’t have the energy, I suppose, to find it.
I browsed, almost aimlessly, wondering if I’d imagined taking this single candid, looking in vain.
About a year later I was doing much more sophisticated things with iPhoto and paying more attention – and in a generally more awake state. I spent days cataloging, editing, and titling the scans I had made from Gavin’s lifetime portfolio of more than 1,000 drawings and paintings – actually using the application as it’s intended, at last, I opened a tab in the menu. The year “2006” was unchecked – toggled “off.”
I checked the box. A minute later all of 2006 – only 20 or 30 pictures – came back. Had I turned it off on purpose?
And here she is – the only picture of my only child, my little girl, coming in from the sun one summer day. You can see meaning in it, or a slice of one day. With gratitude at finding it, I choose the latter.
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