I remember the day I took this photograph of my dad’s hands. It was for a story about finding hidden treasure.
We found the old box at a prop shop. It was a sort of treasure hunt of its own, crisscrossing the city together…looking for something the right size to fit his hands… the right shape and patina.
We stood in the back yard as I struggled with a 4×5 camera and Polaroid technique that was new to me at the time. It was bright sun and there was a pinhole in the camera bellows that I didn’t know about. Every shot was ruined and it vexed me. I couldn’t figure out the problem and I became frustrated.
I cursed. I lost my patience with my dad when it wasn’t his fault. He continued to stand there with the box and help in any way that he could.
My dad’s hands hadn’t started shaking yet…well…not much. On this day the tremor was slight, but I could see it as I looked through the camera and tried to focus. Eventually it grew. It robbed him of the wood carving he loved to do. He could no longer hold a paper still enough to read. In the end, the rest of his body and even his mind became as infirm as those hands.
As I watched my dad age, I often looked back at this photo and remembered how he was still that day…he was calm…and I imagined that was the hidden treasure in the box….the ability to stay calm in the midst of struggle. A stillness he lacked in his final days that I would have liked to give him.
A year ago that my dad died. He gave us many gifts…many hidden treasures. Some I think of every day…and others remain yet to be discovered.