Tuesday, March 13, 2012

As Time Goes By

This is Andy. He has been my neighbor for nearly 20 years, though only four of them have I actually known him. As a child I used to be frightened of him. I thought he was a grumpy old man. When I finally met him, I could tell instantly that I liked him. He was nothing like I remembered him from my childhood. He was genuine and had this real sweet side. He always seem to surprise me with his rustic witticisms. We were sort of an equal match, in that way. He and I were the strangest pair.

He was three of my lifetimes older than me, but for some reason we were so akin to each other. When we went out to eat, servers would remember us. Probably because they always wondered what our relationship was, and maybe also because he ate so slow.

A couple years ago, I bought Andy a watch for his birthday. It was no Rollex, but he loved it all the same. It never quite worked very well. It always showed the date as 2 days later than it was and as a result, he never knew what day it was. I told him I'd get him a new watch, but he never wanted another one. He loved that watch.

I remember the day that I took this portrait of him. I ask him if I could take his picture inside my house, and he agreed, as he always did. He was making a strange face. It's kind of the face I see when I think about him, on the verge of tears but you can't tell if he's happy or sad. He was a man that had so much joy but also so much sorrow. I could clearly see how lonely he was. I image it would be so hard to be alone at that age. I could see his face light up when he convinced me to go to lunch with him. So, it became hard to say no.

I taught him how to play rock-paper-scissors. He was so bad at it. He always cheated. I would choose scissors and several seconds later he would choose rock. I always thought it was funny and would tease him. I tried to re-teach him how to take the written driving test for the DMV, even though he shouldn't be driving anyway. I would ask him a question and he'd immediately try to distract me with a different topic. He never ended up retaking that test, even though we spent hours and hours going over the material.

One day he went to visit his family out of state. He called me often. and by often, I mean, very often. Then what started as a short trip, turned into a really long trip. He was gone for 5 months. When he finally returned, he seemed different. His family thought he may have had a small stroke. He started using a walker. He no longer came over every day. or at all. Soon he had a caretaker coming and staying with him.

It's been like this for about a year now. Every time I see him he's looking a little worse. Now he's hardly talking, and struggles to keeps his eyes on you. I know that when you make friends with old people, you should very well know what the outcome will be. It's still so sad to see it happen.

He is still wearing his watch though.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All I Can

The first thing people usually ask me, when I show them my portraits, is why I make the work that I do. This has always been a very hard thing for me to explain to someone. I think that it is because I'm not good at writing or formulating sentences that I try to express myself through art. Growing up, I had never been a very sentimental person, but looking back on myself as a child I see how impacted I was by simple sensorial feelings. I remember when I was eight, I was at a sleepover, and while all the other girls were planning the next house to toilet paper, I snuck outside by myself so that I could lay beneath the stars. I remember that there were so many of them; each so beautiful and bright. Despite how many there were in the sky, I couldn't help but think how lonely each one looked. In that moment, I remember feeling something. It's a hard feeling to explain, but it felt like the world's sadness suddenly fell into my hands. I could feel each star struggle for what felt like it's last flicker. At eight, I ingested a pain I couldn't understand. Even now I can't quite put it into words. I know it sounds sort of depressing and probably really dramatic, but maybe it's not. Maybe it's just the opposite. I often get the same feeling now. Of course it makes me sad, but it is because of these sensorial feelings that I can still appreciate each lonely star in the sky.