Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad and the Family Portrait

Dad and the Family Portrait
 C. Richard Patton

"Your other left," I heard myself saying for the third time. My god, I really have turned into my father. I know that's not really a bad thing; my dad served his country and still found time for us kids when we were growing up, and even fit in his poker game, sometimes, when family and work allowed.

"Jimmy, son, try moving _behind_ your sister;" I continued. "I still can't see her. There. Now everybody hold still! I'm going to set the timer for six seconds and jump into the spot next to Mom." I was being upbeat and fun, wasn't I?

Then Jimmy said, "Every time Dad gets a new camera, we have 'Family Portrait Day'", distracting me just as I hit start on the camera's timer.  The new digital Canon jiggled on the second-hand tripod. I steadied it, double checked the image on the LCD screen, and headed for my place next to my wife.

...Two, one, Ka-click! Crap. Not even close. The chorus of "Aw, Dad!" from everyone, even Mary my wife, was disheartening.
"Okay, that's a wrap!" I said, using my mock director's voice and still trying to be fun. "We'll try again when I've got it more figured out -- and when there's a better attitude among the troops." Oh, God, there was my dad again.  He had always called my two brothers and me "the troops". How three boys made a troop I had never understood.

After the intended contents of my family portrait dispersed, I started reading the new camera's manual.  I'd be ready next time. Hmmm, my dad never
read instruction manuals -- not once in his life as far as I could recall.  Maybe I haven't become my father! Maybe I _have_ grown up to be my own unique person, a product of family, yes, but also of a liberal arts education, and of the things I've seen and done. 

It cheered me a bit and I went back to the camera; but as I did, a new thought popped into my head: Mom, of course, always read the manual.