So what does it all mean? Pictures I mean. I guess in a world filled with immediate gratification photography can play a part. But in the larger world, what matters is who we are, who we become and most important, who we love. I had a chance to visit my uncle Harvey again this past weekend to see a man who I have known all of my life. My father’s youngest sibling, he is all that remains of the second generation of Kitaoka’s.
When Tracy and I arrived at his home, my aunt Kazy was visibly shaken by his condition. No longer able to get out of bed, he was asleep when we arrived. We stood by his bedside as my aunt attempted to awaken him. Slowly he opened his eyes and she said, “Honey, Marky is here.” He closed his eyes again, barely having the strength to keep them open. But after a time, he opened them and recognized me and motioned that he was thirsty. So I placed a half full bottle of water in his now frail hand and watched as he painfully tried to tilt the bottle just enough to quench his thirst. I debated helping him as the water slowly moved through the transparent plastic toward his lips, but refrained knowing that my uncle’s pride was more important than assistance. And finally he obtained the simple pleasure he sought, a small drink of water.
After that he seemed better, opening his eyes and attempting to speak. Shortly after that, my cousins arrived and we all gathered around him. One of my cousins had prepared a special dish he felt Harvey could eat and once he was told of the meal, he asked my aunt to raise his bed so he could eat. Elated, Kazy raised his hospital bed up and place his glasses on his face so he could see all of us. The mood of the night changed at that very moment, as we saw Harvey smile and as my aunt watched, she was touched, as she had not seen him smile in weeks.
It was almost as normal, my uncle smiling and talking while enjoying the simple pleasure of a meal with his family. It was a scene that played out throughout my lifetime – family exchanging our companionship with one another. I had taken down my historic katana to show Harvey and his eyes widened when he touched the sword’s tang. He then told me to go into his office to get the tail hook he kept off of the jet he flew in the Korean war for the US Navy. I am proud of my family’s history which includes warriors from feudal Japan, but mostly for the honor we share as a group.
As I stood there with all of my family, I remembered something that I have tried to live by for the past several years. To enjoy the moment, in the moment and never take for granted what is presented to each of us. Before leaving for the night, I held out my hand to my uncle and he moved his right hand out from under the covers of his bed. As we shook hands as men do I looked him in the eyes and said, “Uncle, I am so proud to be your nephew.” He simply smiled and clenched my hand with the strength to which I have always been accustomed from a man who has always been physically strong. I simply said, “I’ll see you very soon.”
Last November I took a photograph of my aunt and uncle just before his health turned to a point where he could no longer walk. That image and images I cherish have made all that I do in photography pale in comparison. So what does it all mean? It means that tomorrow is promised to no one and for today I will appreciate those who I love and cherish.