A difficult childhood left my Father and I estranged for 32 years before we re-met on a summer afternoon in July of 2003. But we made up for lost time, spending many long, lazy afternoons together catching up and learning about each other before he passed away just 33 months later. On one of those wonderfully mellow days his tired eyes softened with a far-away look and quietly he told me about a dream he’d had all of his life, but never fulfilled…
You see, my Father had been photographer for over 50 years, and he was also a bit of a loner. He loved to photograph people and places, snapping thousands of photos … later working even more magic into each one, developing them himself. When I was young, we could often be found together in a tiny basement room, exposing, enlarging, and swirling papers up and over and through various pans of developer, eagerly waiting to see the creations that would spring to life in front of our eyes. That wonderfully distinctive smell can still carry me back in a heartbeat. He also loved to travel. His dream was to meander the country with not much more than a tiny trailer to use as a dark room …. meeting people & learning about them, discovering new places & cultures, and photographing what spoke to his heart. Instead, the realities of life stepped in and he found himself strangled by white shirts and ties, cooped up in a downtown office, microfilming for others the places he longed to see. It was a dream that died with him on April 17, 2006.
What he didn’t know until that afternoon was that his daughter shared the same dream. The only difference was that it was now the digital age … I didn’t need a dark room to do magic. And I also inherited my Mother’s writing gene. I was moved to tears that day … here was a man I barely knew, yet so obviously I was his child, through-and-through. The day he passed away, I dragged my sleeping bag to the top of a tall hill and laid in the sun, sobbing for hours, wishing to be as close to the heavens as I could … so much left unsaid, so much left undone, so much yet unfinished in both of our lives. And somewhere in the quiet recesses of my heart, I made a vow.
My Father liked to say, “Make it so, Sweetheart, make it so.” And so I have, Daddy, so I have.
10 days and counting now. Things are pretty much set for the first ‘leg’ of the Ride, running through mid-September, taking me from Ithaca to PA, CT, NH, back through Upstate NY, into MI, IL, MO, KY, OH, and again into PA, before turning southward in late September. Tomorrow I close on the house, Wednesday is my last day at work. And no doubt, along with the time spent cleaning and wrapping up everything here, there will be many moments of introspection & thought … quiet meditations on the long journey I’m about to undertake. And silent conversations with a man I still call Daddy.
And so, early in the morning of the 17th, it all begins….