Stories we don't tell enough

A year ago, my great-grandma passed away. Today, she would turn 104.

This photo is over a century old with my great-grandma just turned 1

When I was born, my great-grandma was in her seventies. My mom was named Alla after her and was raised by her. Both Allas lived together until my great grandma’s last day, and she kept her mind’s clarity until just about her last year.


Photo of my 18-year-old great-grandma

My mom always looked up to my grandma and praised her for her kindness, calmness, and gentleness. She always turned to her for advice, and there was always comfort and wisdom for her. I wish I could say the same about myself, but a three-generation gap made it hard to connect. That’s obviously a nice way to justify me being a little ungrateful brat. For that reason, it is hard for me to write about grandma: I feel guilty. I feel guilty for being impatient with her, for snapping back way too often, for not spending enough time with her and not asking questions about things only she could tell.


My mom is 2 years old, and great-grandma is 51

Here in Canada, my grandma would most likely end up in a nursing home and she wouldn’t live as long out of her comfort zone and without my mom’s familiar presence. My mom is my role model for not giving up grandma even when she couldn’t walk anymore, required constant assistance and could barely talk for the last few months of her life.


What does it have to do with photography? Well, apart from the ring she gave me for my 18th birthday, unsurprisingly, photos are all I have left of her.


My great-grandma (74) with me

I wasn’t doing photography professionally when my grandma was in better shape, and later, I moved away to Canada. I wish I could go back and take better photos. I wish I could go back and slap teenage-me in the face, so I’d realize how little time we had.


Not many of us get a chance to spend time with our grandparents, let alone great grandparents. Photos are just one way to remember them, but it’s not the most important one. Make time for them. Visit them, ask them questions, listen to what they have to say.


Me, my mom, and great-grandma on her 99th birthday

In essence, all I’m trying to do here is to say out loud: I love you, grandma. I remember you. I’m sorry.

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