My Grandpa and Great Aunt turned 90 last year, Grandma turned 88. While we were there, Grandpa loved my camera and was the first person in a good while to not look at me a little sideways when I told him that it wasn't digital. "Well, sure!" he said. "Film will last, you'll have it forever and you can always get a print." It was exactly the reason that I wanted to use it for my photos of them and their home. It was a tangible way to remember, even after the houses were sold and they had moved or moved on - it just seemed more real.
After he saw mine, he got out his old cameras. One by one, he pulled out amazing old cameras and told me how he used to write letters to Kodak to order more film. It all seemed so patient - writing a letter, waiting for them to reply with prices, writing again to order and sending a check, then finally getting your film. I hardly have the patience to wait for anything except Amazon Prime shipping now that comes to my door the next day when I order online and I still have to sit impatiently on my hands while I wait for film scans to come back after I take them to the store down the road or especially if I send it away in the mail.
He showed me his Nikon F, still in perfect condition of course, and told me how he got it in Japan when we was traveling for work. He worked for Noritake and toured Nikon and asked his co-workers to pick something for him. The camera was completely manual, so they had to show him how to use it and he explained to me how he'd set the film speed, then just, "turn these dials a little bit at a time until they line up in the middle!"
Two nights ago, my mom dropped off a box for me on the front porch. Somehow we missed her knocking and she called a few minutes later to tell us that we should bring it inside from the 18 degree temperatures. John opened it first and told me that I should come downstairs, that I was going to be excited. In it were all of Grandpa's old cameras. I got teary opening it, seeing the cameras he had shown me and the 8mm movie cameras, along with reels marked, "1966 Annapolis" from when my Dad was at the Naval Academy.
My parents spent last weekend with my Dad's brothers and sister in New York cleaning out their house. Between Thanksgiving and the New Year both my Great Aunt and Grandma were in the hospital and the result of both of those hospitalizations was that they would need full-time care, so they have all moved to Florida now to nursing homes where they will have more family nearby to visit and help to take care of them. Just like that, the houses will be sold and sorted out, possessions divided or sold and the places we've gone for so long will no longer exist. At least not the way we remember.
So, I have the cameras. And my new project is to use them. Some will take a bit of finagling. I don't even know if he'll really care or not, but I want to use them and send pictures to him. I think he'll get a kick out of knowing that the cameras of his memories are being used again.