Preserving Family Memories

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of her deceased father from an old VHS videotaped recording converted to DVD.On a small computer screen, in a blurred DVD converted from an old VHS recording, bleared further through my tears, I watched my father laughing. I’d last seen his face in 2009. He wasn’t laughing then. At the end of his life, he was angry, ready to go. Done.

Now in the recovered footage, My father sat in a row alongside his siblings and in-laws. The seven of them smiled nervously, lined up in front of a video camera in 1993. My father, always fascinated by cameras, seemed amused to be on the other side of this newfangled movie-making instrument. Within minutes, he warmed to the camera and to the questions his niece and daughters were posing to the group. He laughed, talking on past his turn. It was hard to shut him up. I’d forgotten what he was like when he was happy. The video zoomed in and out, focusing on the group, closing in on him.

Videotaping aging relatives. We’d all noticed the changing population at the family reunions. “To preserve the family history,” my cousin Brigite, the one who came up with the idea and produced the project, had said.

But for me, years later approaching Father’s Day, fixated on the fuzzy computer image, it was the preservation of my father’s bright face and the sound of his laughter. And of all the pixelated memories of being my father’s daughter. For days after, I talked to him, and walked in the warmth of his smile.



What memories are brought up for you by viewing photos or video footage of your loved ones who died?

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4 thoughts on “Preserving Family Memories

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I just went through a box of my mother’s photos recently found in my mother’s daughter-in-law’s cellar. I found three family photos that included my father and me. Before that, I’d had just one photo with him–and the top of his head was cut off in the image. In the newly found photos, I noticed how sad we look in one. How forced the smiles in the other. They were in his last years when it was clear he wouldn’t live long. I also noticed something else in the photos. For every solo photo of me, school photos for example, or photos in articles about high school achievements, there were ten photos of my brother. Not because he achieved more, but because she focused on him. He was Mama’s boy and had to carry that to the end of his life. I was Daddy’s girl, an easier parent to please.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Elaine, how we love is so sad. The whole messy thing of loving is so unfair and uneven, hardly controllable. And the way it dents us all through over-loving, overprotecting, under-loving, having favorites, losing love, unrequited love, ….Yeesh! I don’t imagine it would be a better world without love though. And certainly we wouldn’t have beautiful compelling stories, books, and movies. But I wonder if we always replace people and things we love, if we are wired to love. Because we keep finding ourselves losing and mourning and making a ruckus over our grief, doing the same old song and dance. Love. Maybe in my next life I’ll be a chipmunk.


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