Looking At My Father’s Life in Photos

After his father's death, a son looks through his dad's old photographs and pieces together the parts he never saw.

by Darin Recchi
A man sitting on a boat that is on a beach next to water

In the basement of my childhood home we have meticulously arranged photo albums documenting the life of our family. One row on a large shelf, over fifty albums lined up and numbered. Not long ago, I spent a morning browsing those albums, starting at number one and reviewing every album page by page – it was a journey that took an entire morning. The albums document Mom & Dad’s lives before marriage, then as a free-wheeling married couple, and on to me and my brother joining the family.

The pictures of us growing up together are fantastic and the refreshing part of browsing each album is they do not document every moment, but instead record milestones in each year that effectively spark memories of other events & good times as a family. Many of the photos aren’t perfect and that’s the beauty of it. In an age where we take perfect photos of everything every day and constantly share them with the world, flipping through pages in the rec room is a completely different experience. It allowed me to take the time to stop & enjoy shots of our family over time, rather than digesting pictures, and to recall the details of what we were doing in each shot.

A particular memory I have from browsing through a few of the albums years back is observing to my Dad “in many of the photos you, your buddies, your brother … you’re all laughing and holding a drink.” His response went something along the lines of, “if you’re not having fun with your family and your buddies, why take a photo?” Recalling how he said it I now interpret his response as “you don’t need to take a photo of everything to remember or prove that you’ve had a lot of good times.”

After more than a year of battling cancer, Dad passed away on November 27th. January 3rd, would have been his 74th birthday. Dad treated that battle with the same grit he showed us growing up and, from what I’ve heard from his friends and family many times throughout my life, the same tenacity he brought to most everything.

In the short time since Dad’s passing I’ve thought a lot about those photos and spent even more time with the vivid pics of him both in my memory and the recollections my children bring up daily. The remembrance starts with many stories I’ve heard from his friends and family; Ronnie, who grew up on Lorne Street in Kamloops hanging out with his pals. Ron, the sports fanatic who loved playing softball and hockey and stood out in Tier II hockey with the Rockets – both for his skill and equally his temperament. Ron, who loved fishing and hunting with his family and buddies. Our father who would show his sons why hard work is important, respect is necessary, and how to look out for other people. I’m certain he didn’t know he was giving us that particular lesson, but it just came as a part of who he was. Dad had his flaws like everyone of us, but anything he was short on he made up with humility and friendship.

When my brother and I were young, Dad both looked out for us and left us to our own devices to figure out the world. Like most Dads he made us pitch in and do our fair share of the work. The little lessons about hard work were valuable ones. In my teens through 20’s knowing full-well where my decisions (both good and bad) would lead me, he let things play out. Don’t get me wrong, he gave me a lot of shit at some points but I know now that he knew a lot more about where our paths were taking us from his own experience, from both the things he was proud of and those he would have done differently.

We all have regrets. One of the things I admire most about Dad is that he dusted himself off and kept moving. I’m certain I inherited his low tolerance for bullshit and sometimes that serves me well. Other times, it leads to close consideration of situations being a necessity. If I add up all the lessons he taught me the sum total equals hard work and looking out for others always leads the way and wins the day.

The most rewarding experience from the culmination of all the time and memories accumulated has been the past nine years of watching my dad as Nonno to my own children. The memories of my Dad as he was watching us grow up I now realize serve as flashbacks of watching him grow and change through the years. Memories of my Dad with my kids are so crystal clear I’m certain they won’t fade, just as the memories I have of both the best and toughest times we went through as father and son.

I’ve missed the little things a lot these past weeks and I’m certain I will continue to miss them for a long time to come. Like many parents, my Dad got online years ago and spent regular time on Skype with my children. Also using the power of technology for good he sent me weather updates (I never bothered to point out that my phone updated me, his updates were much more entertaining), happenings at home and mostly hockey scores and quips on how our teams were doing. Dad was a lifelong Canucks fan; I root for the Oilers. He had a chance to bust my chops early this season about the Oilers’ lackluster start out of the gates and kept the updates coming through the fall. The texts and calls got fewer into the weeks before he left, but they still kept coming. Thankfully I managed to spend a lot of time with him this year to soak in his observations in person. You can’t go back. But I’d give a lot to see his name come up on my phone or have a text pop up reminding me how my team is doing.

This story was syndicated. Read Darin Recchi’s original post on Medium.

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