Missed. My father with his younger brothers and sister.
Missed. My father with his younger brothers and sister during the war.

Missed. I look back at one who will be missed, and the opportunity I missed too.

When a spouse, family member or close friend dies it causes one to stop and think. That is to say, we remember our loved one. Memories of what made them special come to our minds, as well as memories of the relationship that we shared. And in my case, the opportunities I missed.

We are gathering together later today to bury my father.

My father was stone deaf from an early age. He lived in a time when this carried a stigma and set people apart as somehow deficient. His was a determined man. He did not want to be seen as different in any way. Consequently, he never learned to use sign language. My Dad was a lip reader.

Determination

Looking back I learned many things from my father. His determination was one such thing. Everyone knew he was deaf, due to the way he spoke, stuck on one tone. Strangely I never noticed that as a child – he spoke just like everyone else to me. It was his determination to be just like all the other fathers that I have come to appreciate. He attended all our school concerts and ensured we played an instrument (in my case badly). Yet, he could not hear a note.

His determination rubbed off on me.

Silent Conversations

One humorous side effect of lip reading was that there was no need for noise. Many were the conversations that we had without me making a single noise. This was so natural as a family that we did not even notice that we did it. It only became apparent when we had visitors and received strange looks as the conversation fell quiet and yet continued quite fluently.

The worst aspect of lip reading as a child was when he knew exactly what you whispered to your sister from across the room.

Missed Opportunity

Like many fathers and sons, we had our differences. We held to different beliefs, different priorities and different pathways in life. I was very pleased that as time passed we grew closer. Perhaps closer than we had been in childhood.

Perhaps our closer relationship is why I missed my opportunity.

I took for granted that I still had time to really talk over our differences. Relied upon the fact that I still had time to learn more about a man who I had come to realise was part of the inspiration behind my determination and drive. I beleived I still had time to get a great photo of my dad.

Gradually, almost imperceptibly to start with, he slid into mental illness. Little by little I lost him. Before I realised it he did not live in the same world as us all of the time. He stopped eating.

As a portrait photographer, I specialise in creating lasting memories for my clients through portraits. My motivation is that they have something beautiful to treasure for the rest of their lives. In addition, their loved ones have something to treasure for generations to come too. I remind my clients that as they look through their printed photos they will unlock all of the memories and emotions associated with their loved ones. They will remember the fun that they had and how they looked and felt that day.

My missed opportunity is that I never really did this properly for my father

Okay, I have some photos. Some nice ones too! Some taken when he was very healthy, some when he was very poorly. However, it is not the same. I missed taking the time to do what I am best at for me and my family. A lasting portrait of my father and mother.

I know what it is when my clients well up with tears as they pour over their portraits. Every time I deal with gorgeous prints and frames and folio boxes that present their memories in such a special way. I just did not do it for me.

My father will be missed. I will miss him. If I could do it again I would capture that great portrait that really defined who he was and what he meant to me. He would have sported his cheeky grin and not taken it very seriously at all.

I don’t get a second chance…but perhaps you might with your loved ones. Take the time now to do those things that really matter, those things that will last and provide lasting memories.

Peter

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