Working on a video project today, I was thinking about some family footage I hadn’t viewed in a long time. I located the tape. This particular VHS cassette holds memories my father recorded between 1985 and 1997. There’s over 2 hours of material. Some of it, I don’t think I ever watched before.
Seeing my father in middle age, hearing his voice, listening to his jokes, witnessing his engagement with his family, often from behind the lens, brought such a mix of emotions. I felt comforted, happy, sad, frustrated, sometimes a little bored. I wanted to go back to some of the places he’d shot. I felt nostalgic for his company; for our shared past, particularly once we became friends, in adulthood. He was a great listener and gave wonderful advice.
Of course, I can’t go back. The houses in the footage are now inhabited by other families. So much of my family is gone now. The places are empty without the people who mattered; the people in the footage.
My father was not a religious man. His family wasn’t, and when my parents lost their first son at 18 months of age to meningitis, I think any faith he might have had before that terrible loss was extinguished. But I did find an interesting moment on the tape that provided a window into my father’s later-life views.
The apartment my parents shared in southern Florida was on the 14th floor of their building. It faced southeast, and had an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Early one Sunday morning, my father took his camera out on the terrace and shot the sun rising over the ocean. My father can be heard ruminating about what a beautiful day it would likely be, following a boat as it motored up the Intracoastal toward open water. Speaking softly, in his gruff but gentle manner, I heard him say “Roz and I get up in the morning and we feel all right, and we hear that everything up north is OK, and we say ‘Thank you God.’”
At the end of my father’s life, his misery was so profound, all he wished for was death. He told me that every time he woke up, he was disappointed. His desire, expressed so clearly, made it a little easier for us to let him go. His passing ten years ago was truly a blessing. As I’ve said before, I really lost him about a year before he died.
Being able to connect today with his happier times is such a great gift. Knowing he had a long, happy interval, where he experienced joy, gratitude and a connection to a higher power, whatever it might have been for him, makes me so grateful he captured it. And rediscovering it now is a wonderful reminder that life is meant to be enjoyed, savored and appreciated while you can. Thank you, Herby. I’m so lucky to have known you, and I’m so glad you left a record of some of those good times.