Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grandad, Granther and Black & White Photos

Tonight I was musing through photos...old photos.  My niece had posted some old photos on her Facebook account and I was enjoying looking at the images from years long gone.

Grandad was born in 1904 and lived a long, productive life, passing quietly away one month before his 97th birthday.  I was the last family member to see him alive, and I held his hand as he drifted in and out of sleep.  When he was awake, he was very lucid, and I venture to say, his final thoughts were probably of my nephew and niece, who, at the time, were traveling in Ireland.  Grandad was still that aware of his world and the goings on of those he cared about.

A few years before he passed away, Grandad's second wife, Evy, many years his junior, passed away.  It was the second time Grandad found himself burying a wife, and I felt very sad for him.  He did not, however, feel sorry for himself.  He told me he was confident God put him on this earth, in this place, that he would be able to care for these two women and take care of them in their final hours.  He had fulfilled his word to his wives and to his maker.

His first wife, "Granther," as I knew her, remains in my memory as she appears in this old photo.  She passed away from cancer when I was six years old, when she was 56 years old -- young by today's standards.  My lasting impressions of this gentle, calm, loving woman seems to have made me especially partial to the lovely appearance of  prematurely grayed hair with delightfully youthful skin.  Mom says Granther's hair was "salt and pepper" from the time she was 18 years old.  I only know that this appearance embodies "peaceful" and "comfortable" to me. The photo below, taken in my grandparent's living room, has my Granther (far right) and her sister, also prematurely gray, along with my Grandad and my mother...long before any of my mother's children were even a twinkle in this only child's eye...I don't think Mom was even 16 in this photo.

Left to Right -- Aunt Esther, Grandad, Mom, Granther

If I have any regret besides the obvious loss of my grandmother at such an early age, it is that I did not get to say good bye to her as she was passing.  The others did.  But I was left in the car, sick with strep throat, hurting and stiff from a penicillin shot gone awry, just an hour or so before.  Back then, I recall feeling left out.  Today I feel as if I just never got to say "I love you, Granther" that last time.  Still, I did have that opportunity more than 35 years later when Grandad passed away.

There is something about black and white photography that seems to better capture the feelings of a moment.  Color, in all its beauty and vividness, seems to distract my eyes from those feelings.  For instance, in the photo above, I can see the honesty of the laughter being shared by Aunt Esther, Grandad and Granther, while at the same time see the "putting up with it" in my mother's expression.  Mom looks uncomfortable in her dress and bored out of her skull, but dutifully "participating" in the family gathering.  One day I'll ask Mom how she was feeling at that moment!

The photo below is one I don't ever recall seeing before my niece posted it.  I absolutely love it!  It has become one of my all time favorites.  This photo captures Granther before her hair turned gray and while both of my grandparents were in their youth.  They looks so comfortable together --  not like those stiff photos we all have of our generations-past relatives.  I'm not sure when this was taken, whether they were "courting" or already married, but I am sure they look content!

Comfortable together
Ten years after Granther passed away, Grandad had taken up photography, building himself a darkroom and developing and printing his own work.  We all became his "subjects" and I recall working with him as he explored and explained the techniques of bringing the raw film through the development process, and creating the desired effects in the prints.  My niece also had a shot from those days in her Facebook photo album.

In the photo below, my sister Jeannie and I are posed (against our will, to be sure) with each other, to create the effect of "sisters."  In those days Jeannie and I were NOT close and sitting this close was purely ridiculous... so ridiculous, in fact, we were genuinely LAUGHING at the fake image we were creating for the camera.

Jeannie and Judy

And in this image, in my sister's beautiful face, I see my Granther's smile shining through.  Though I truly did NOT feel toward my sister as this photo would suggest, I find it oddly "truthful," as this IS how I feel about my sister today.  I am thankful to Grandad who knew the importance of preserving memories for future reflection, and delighted to be able to see Granther again, in my sister's smile.

And now, just a little fun with some recent photos, changed, with the help of technology, to Black and White...not the same, but fun, nonetheless!

Judy, Benoit, Jenn and Heather -- Summer 2010

Judy and Joe -- Summer 2010
Sunflowers -- Summer 2010
Garage -- Spring 2010


~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Hi Judy! I read your last post about your finds and have decided that I would love to come along with you and Joe sometime when you shop--You found the best deals!! :-)

I agree with you about the photos. There is nothing like the nostalga of a black and white picture. You have some wonderful and very touching memories of your family--I'm sure your 'Granther' knew how you felt about her even if you weren't there to say it to her personally...

Sharon said...

I love the old B/W pictures, somehow the photo programs still can't catch the quality of that old B/W film, JMHO. I don't know what it is. I can't seem to get the depth.

It's nice to sit back and remember old family. Brings back more memories than we thought we had.

mixednut555 said...

Lovely post with lovely pictures. My sister is an avid photographer and her best work has always been in black and white. Her b&w photos of my son's wedding are my very favorites. Thank you for sharing!
Today's word verification is merlavo

Niels said...

I also like black and white photos, did a lot in my childhood in the '50ties ! and your talk about your sort of sisterhood with your sister, reminds me of brotherhood with my 2 older brothers, not being so close as it looks when we are celebrating our old moms birthday, we look very alike, but are so different from each other as no one would believe from photos!

Judy's Corner said...

Hi Kim,
Any time you are in the area, stop in, and we will have a bargain hunting day! Hahaha! Truthfully, we almost NEVER set out to "find" a bargain...it just happens that way.

And I do love those black and white photos....

Judy's Corner said...

My sentiments exactly. The computer programs do an amazing job of changing the color to B&W, but they are NOT the same.

Yes, it is the memories of those loved, ones coming alive in those photos, that I find so appealing.

Judy's Corner said...


My photography skills are a big ZILCH...Joe's are awesome...but I ENJOY everyone's. Black and White photos are always my favorite!

(Don't you just LOVE those word verification words???!!!)

Judy's Corner said...

Niels, I know this to be true, because my sister and I were NOT close as children. However, when my grandchildren look back on these photos (presuming I have grandchildren one day, and that they ever take the time to look at historical photos) I'm sure they will believe we were ALWAYS very close....we are close today and, for that, I am very grateful! This photo was just projecting the future for us...thought we thought that a ridiculous prospect at the time!