Many moons ago, when my dad was a teenager, he got interested in photography. He worked for his high school paper, both writing and taking photos, and somewhere in there he got a camera. It was a Nikon F Photomic, and he had multiple lenses and two flashes and a fancy leather carrying case, as well as the hard case to pack it all in. When he died, it all came home with me. I knew I’d never actually use it, but I do like photography and I liked having that little connection.
This past summer, the boy took a road trip with his roommate. They drove out west, all the way to LA and back, and somewhere in there he found a vintage SLR camera from the 1970s at an antique store. He bought it and ever since has been talking about how fun it is, how cool it is. He bought film and took pictures during his trip and sent it off to be developed, but it takes weeks these days.
You probably know where this is going. Last night he came for dinner and after dinner I brought down the case so he could see my dad’s camera and equipment. We were all amazed at how well-maintained it all was, given that it was probably from the early 1960s. But that was my dad — he believed in taking good care of your things. We all had a great time poking through all the accessories and smelling the leather (that was mostly me) and trying to figure out how the camera worked. I even found a few rolls of film — we’re hoping those aren’t as old as the camera! He got one loaded into the camera and took a few shots.
It was a lot of fun, but the whole time, I kept thinking how much of himself my dad didn’t share. We never saw him use this camera. I don’t remember ever hearing him talk about it, or about the time of his life when he did use it. I don’t remember him ever doing anything with photography — he worked, a lot, to support our family of several kids and on the weekends he did stuff around the house and the yard.
But mostly I kept thinking about how much I wish he was still here to teach my son how to use the camera. I wish I could watch the two of them nerd out about cameras and photography. I think my dad would be absolutely delighted by him.
Of course I told my son to take the camera home with him. It never felt like it was mine anyway. I like to think I was just the caretaker, holding onto it for the right time and the right person.