One of my kids told me, “I pulled some pictures out of the garbage by Grampa’s chair yesterday.”
“What?!” I said.
I knew my father had been going through old photographs. It’s something he enjoys. He’ll sit there for hours sifting through and resifting.
“Hey! Have I ever shown you this one?” he’ll ask as I walk past.
I’ll pause and squint to see the glossy black-and-white snapshot in his hand. “This is the house I used to live in,” he’ll explain, and sometimes launch into a story of how his cousin lived right next door and that there was a path worn through the trees, or how he and his father hid time capsules under the floorboards or in the walls.
“This is my father,” he’ll say. “He was a pretty handsome fellow, don’t you think?”
“Here’s one of my old girlfriends,” he’ll say, and my stomach gets a little squeezy because I don’t want him thinking about old girlfriends even though I know that’s silly.
As my son was telling me about the photographs that had been in wastebasket, he looked in. “Here they are again,” he said, and he pulled several out.
I was upset and a little bewildered. Why was my father discarding these old photographs?
“I think it was just an accident,” my son said, reading the unhappy look on my face.
No, the first time could have been an accident, but twice in two days seems pretty intentional.
I’ve heard my father say, in very general terms, “I don’t know who’s going to want all this stuff.”
“What are you wondering about?” I’ll ask.
I’m not so sure.
Maybe he was thinking that no one would want these old photographs.
I looked at the most recent batch pulled from the garbage. They were all taken in Seligman, Arizona, in 1924.
The story goes that my grandfather and some friends had driven a car across the country in 1924, stopping in towns along the way to sell advertising on the side of the car and work for a short stint to earn money for the next leg of the journey.
This is the Harvey House where I think they stayed. I know that because my grandfather was very good about writing words on the backs of photographs to identify the picture.
Except he didn’t identify this one but I think it’s him and his friend and the car and a roadside picnic.
I’ll have to ask my uncle or my aunt.
My father’s memory is dwindling.
And his thinking is muddy.
Otherwise, I doubt he would have thrown out the pictures.
In any event, they’re safe now.