I saw it in a photograph…

I honestly don’t know why I thought of them, but my mind turned to the collection of digital photographs that comprise a large share of our family photo collection. There is a veritable boat-load of traditional print photos, but there are even more digital photos. I was an early adopter of the technology, and literally brought the first digital camera into a Ford facility, demonstrating it’s utility in documenting and reporting issues. I still have that camera, a Casio QV-10, and the one I replaced it with later – a Kodak DC-120. Years later, I moved up to a Kodak DC210 or 240 (can’t remember which, and it has long since been stolen), a Fuji Finepix 4900Z, followed by a Canon Powershot 100 ELPH, then cameras were integrated into cellphones and standalone digital cameras became almost obsolete overnight – great little cameras became a dime a dozen, and several more were added to my stable – a trio of Polaroid digitals, a Fuji “sport hardened” digital, a couple of “action cameras”, and many lesser cameras that have long-since faded from memory.

But back to the original bit: the first two cameras, the Casio and the Kodak, stored photos in proprietary formats (CAM and KDC, respectively), and many of the stored photos were still in those formats. My mind turned to these with the question: how do I retrieve the photos? I use a lot of graphics programs, almost universally open-source. None of what I had would touch them. A little more research, and I stumbled upon XNView and the suite of XN programs – not of my beloved open-source software, but freeware nonetheless. So I tried them and, with one minor tweak for the Casio shots, soon had them converted to a more universal, lossless TIFF format. (For those having old CAM files from the QV-10, you have to change the height to 240, width to 320, and unlink the aspect ratio to get the original picture back undistorted. Apparently later QVs has a 480×320 aspect ration, and even later QVs saved jpegs with the CAM extension, so all you need do is change the .cam to .jpg – irrelevant to this post, but if it helps someone…). Of course, in converting these, I had to also review them. I’m up to 2005, currently. The first digital picture in the collection, taken 20 August 1996, was of Kim wearing one of my pocket tee-shirts stirring something at the the stove.

As I walked through time reviewing these, I made an observation: the early pictures were generally happy – Kim almost always smiling and bright-eyed. As we move on through the collection, around 2001, we see that gradually change. More morose. A haunted look in her eyes. This was also around the time that I remember beginning to suspect that something had “come loose” – and I recall this was around when the Labatt’s became a constant. I’m up to 2005. I remember a lot of happy times, where I know Kim was happy and smiling – but precious few of those moments were captured. The events were captured, but not her looking happy.

I’ve commented how I thought that Kim, having more difficulty shedding the baby weight after each child, was getting depressed by her body image. That rings a little hollow reviewing these as well: she looked great after Kenneth. It wasn’t until about two years later that the weight started to come on, and it was a year after that when I believe it all came crashing down for her in terms of her mental state and the depression that I believe led to her alcoholism. I do know that her body image was very important to her, and she often told me she believed that I wouldn’t love her if she wasn’t the slim little girl I married. At least I proved her wrong on that one.

I know there were a lot of factors influencing her depression. I know that my “on the road” job, and her preference for midnights both drove a feeling of isolation. My involvement with various community organizations also pulled me away a few times a month when I was home, and that likely furthered that feeling of isolation. And, perhaps, she felt unimportant to me? I don’t know, and cannot ask her now – but it has become hard to continue through the photos as I’m left feeling like I deflated her dreams or ruined her life. When we met and got married, we had such dreams! Unrealistic, perhaps, as they were, they did fuel us as we forayed on into our life together. Those dreams changed as our reality, as our circumstances, changed – but did she hold on to the old dreams harder and longer than I did?

If photographs could talk…

Random memories

As I was driving to a dental cleaning appointment this morning, I looked over to see a pretty young lady driving in her car alongside mine. This brought back memories of how, shortly after we were married, Kim would tell me how guys would “still check her out” as she drove by as if simply being married changed what others saw. She would also delight in the surprise she’d see on faces on the occasions she would be driving my Bronco- she’d comment on how they’d look up at the big ol’ beast to see a little girl driving it. A pretty little girl, if you asked me.

Last night, I was remembering how, when we were dating, we’d take her family’s dog, Ginger, for walks – the dog would carry her own leash in her mouth – insisted on it – and she wouldn’t stop to poop, no. It would just come rolling out as she walked, so you had to watch out for it! In the summer, we’d take her along the periphery of the neighborhood park, stopping so she could visit with each of her “friends” in the adjoining yards. I had forgotten about those walks through the park with Ginger, and cannot conceive of why they suddenly came to the fore of my memory.

We certainly enjoyed our walks. We’d go up the street holding hands, and then, once we’d turned the corner, it as time for a hug and a kiss, and then we’d continue on our way. We used to go for lots of walks before I started launching. Not so much afterward. I was usually “too busy,” but we did go for regular walks, off and on.

Kim loved to walk in the nearby nature trails along the Rouge River. I went with her a few times before Wayne County had developed them and made them “official.” One time as we were walking to go through the trails, I got hit with a bizarre dizzy spell, and we had to turn home -YEARS before this vestibular thing (maybe it’s always been there, and it just got exacerbated by something in October, last?). She an Jillian walked them a lot, and I have lots of pictures of Kim< Jillian, and the dogs out there.

I find it a bit funny how the majority of my memories of Kim lately are from our early days together. She was so beautiful – but not just then – she was beautiful her whole life. I don’t think she realized that whenever I looked at her, I saw the woman I loved. Looking back at pictures, I can see how she changed over the years, but I honestly didn’t see anyone other than that beautiful girl I fell in love with when I’d look at her. I guess that’s what love does. But she had her demons. Some I knew about, some she only hinted at, some I’m sure were totally private. I know when I first started launching, she was worried that I would find someone else. I’d assure her time and again, but I know this bothered her. I don’t think she realized that I’m truly not wired that way until that Christmas absence when she and her alcoholic brother were on a bender and she didn’t come home for several days. Her dad was afraid that I was going to divorce her, but, as I said: I’m just not wired that way. I guess I’m loyal to only one woman. This was true even when I was dating – I’d not go out with more than one girl at a time. One. Maybe it’s a fault; a flaw. Don’t know – I think it’s a virtue. Some I dated didn’t deserve that loyalty. Kim did.

What I miss the most

My thoughts have been dwelling on Kim a lot lately. Remembering trips to her parents’ lake lot in my EXP during the summer. A time we hit a pop-up snow squall and spun out on Newburgh near Cherry Hill returning from a date with some of her friends at a comedy club in Ann Arbor. “Fatal Attraction,” the first movie we saw together (she picked it), and how she was worried that it would give the wrong impression (it didn’t). How we would spend hours just driving and talking. Leaving her house at night, and driving down Hines Drive to get back to my parents’ house after a visit.

I miss driving with Kim, holding her hand across the console, listening to the radio and looking at the scenery. Even after the kids started coming, we held hand in the car.

Holding hands.

What I think I miss the most is having her sitting next to me at mass, and unless we were holding a child: holding hands. I don’t think I’ve been through a mass yet that I don’t feel my eyes steaming up, remembering her there beside me. Funny: when we were at St. Dunstan’s, I became an usher shortly after the birth of Jeanette, and generally wasn’t able to sit with Kim. I performed my usher duties more than once with one of the kids in my arms. When Maida and the Archdiocese of Detroit pulled their petty little vindictive shit-show on the pastor, destroying the parish in the process, we moved to St. Thomas a’Becket. I wasn’t aware of the gift that they had actually given me: never again would we invest ourselves in a parish the way we had at St. Dunstan so, instead of being an usher, I sat with Kim. And I held her hand and gave her a kiss at the offering of a sign of peace, shared my phone for the after-communion prayers we said. Now, I just imagine her worshipping with the choirs of angels when the veil between heaven and earth is opened at the Eucharist.

Where were you…

I was asked today “what were you doing a year ago today?”  An innocent enough question brought on by the commemoration of a grandnephew’s first birthday combined with the comment of “Where does the time go?”

Where does it go, indeed.

A year ago today, Kim was in Florida at her sister-in-law, Vee‘s, condominium with her sister Rhonda; they had accompanied their father there so he could visit and clean out his trailer in Florida with the thought that it would be sold. She would go the next day to Harry Potter Land at The Universal Studios theme park, Harry Potter being one of her favorite things of all time. 

I was at work in my office on this day. We wouldn’t have been sent to work from home due to Covid for another week. At home, I would recommence work on the annual torture we’re put through by our benevolent government: our income tax return. I spent the weekend on them while watching Bohemian Rhapsody and The Mandolorian to help ease the mind-numbing tedium which is tax preparation.

It would be another month and 12 days before we would receive the news that destroyed life as we had known it. All of our pettiness, all of our little squabbles, all of our irritations with each other still thrived. Oddly, that’s what I remember most about this time: despite my cheerful replies to her texts, I recall feeling irritation over that trip. Irritation with the cute texts she would send me featuring Hufflepuff, the stuffed purple unicorn that Kenny got her for Christmas, at each of their stops and in the car along the way. Irritation that they were going to the theme park. Irritation…

It’s interesting how the passage of time and the accompanying revelation of life’s events changes perspective: those are now some of my most cherished images, and I would give anything to have Kim having fun in Florida while I do the taxes at home right now.

Little things

I was going through some unmarked boxes on the shelves in the basement when I came across one having a card in an envelope and a small, white book. Picking them out, I found the card was a note written about a year before we met by one of Kim’s high school friends, thanking her for a Christmas card she sent the year before. A nice little note between friends. The other was a Children’s Marian Missal, probably a First Communion gift. In it was a slip of paper from the City of Livonia having to do with getting a minor work permit. So many little bits of a life lost.

I hear of women talking of having an “ugly cry” over things. I guess this describes the loud, sobbing cry that I had while holding these in my hands. I put them back in the box and the box back on the shelf. This will have to wait for another day.

Every time I unexpectedly come across something like these, floods of memories sweep over me, drowning me in their depths. All the joys, all the sorrows, all the problems, and all the triumphs we experienced as a couple.

I miss her so much…

Happy birthday, Kim.

A bittersweet day. The day my beautiful Kim entered this world 55 years ago. My brothers and sisters and I (and a few nephews and nieces) all participate in a family text group, and it was with dewy eyes I read their birthday wishes for her. One in particular, from my older brother:

“Happy Birthday Kim! I cannot help but think you came into this world on the first day of the month we attribute to Love and were born to eternal life on the first day of the month we celebrate the ultimate love – the birth of Our Lord and Savior! Give Him a big hug for us! Love you!

And as I type this, Siri is telling me to call Kim as it has found her birthday in my contacts.

At 9:00, there will be a mass in her name at St. Thomas a’Becket, our parish for a little more than the past decade.

It’s starting off to be an emotionally hard day.


I spent this evening going through a handful of our photographs while listening to an excellent TED Talk on grief I had found on the Facebook group Widowers Support Network, and a couple of somewhat unrelated talks by Fr. Chris Alar of the Fathers of the Immaculate Conception; one discussing abortion and the other discussing angels (I’m amazed and grateful for the energy of some of these young priests – and for their zeal for the faith).

Some of the pictures were taken before we met. Some were taken prior to our engagement, some from that trip to Hubbard Lake I mentioned in an earlier entry, many from our wedding and honeymoon in the Poconos; and many from various stages of our life together – up to the very end.

A Walk at Hubbard Lake
A Walk at Hubbard Lake – 1989

Looking through these pictures, it is sometimes painful to see how life changed us; the ups and downs, the worries, and the passage of time. At the same time, there is great happiness in those events – post-delivery pictures for each of the kids, birthday parties, baptisms, confirmations… It is remarkable, reviewing those pictures, how everything there focused around family – either our families before we started our own, or our family as it began and grew. There was some facet of family captured in every one of them – be it my inlaws, my family, our own children, or our extended family – oftentimes all in one!

Looking through them does tug a bit at the heartstrings, but, for the most part, reviewing them brings more happy memories than painful ones. I expected that I would find them more painful than I do. But seeing her beautiful face peeking back at me from the past is refreshing, and reminds me of how much we loved each other, despite all of the challenges life and time brought to us.

I wonder what we look like in heaven? Do we look as we did when we passed away? Do we look as we did at the height of health as young adults? Or do we look totally different, no longer recognizable to our human mind? Are we still one with our spouse in heaven? Are our families intact? I guess, assuming I live my life in such a way to be deserving of it, I will find out in God’s good time.