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THE REALITY OF THINGS

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THE REALITY OF THINGS

Cindy Maddera

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We traveled to Oklahoma to visit with my family over the weekend and ended up getting back home kind of late. As a result we were left scrambling to get things ready for the next day. I left laundry in the washer and dryer. There are still things that need to be unpacked and put away. My need for order and cleanliness has gone into overdrive, leaving me to feel a little panicky about things in general. I will spend the week playing catch up, getting things done here and there only to have to do them again on the weekend. But it was nice to visit with my family this weekend with the exception of dad. Mom and I drove down early Saturday morning to visit with Dad. We had been told that Dad could handle thirty minutes of visitation, so I knew I'd be driving three hours one way for a very short visit. Instead, when we arrived, we found that dad had been sedated. He'd had a rough week, got in a fist fight with another patient, and had been yelling about someone taking his dog. Finally Friday night, the nurses thought it was best to give him a sedative. I'm not sure if he recognized us or not. He seemed excited to see us when we walked in, but quickly dozed off, drifting in and out. He'd wake up and want to fix the quilt draped over his legs and then settle back to snooze. His movements reminded me of Chris near the end. Basically those sedatives and pain meds are a form of meth. It causes the user to become twitchy and they pick at things like their clothes or their skin. Chris got fixated on peeling apart a piece of paper that could not be peeled apart. I finally had to take the paper away before he drove me crazy. Dad's "paper" was his quilt, constantly rearranging it, picking at it, feeling the lines in the stitches.

Mom left me alone with him while she went to talk to the nurses. I was sitting in his dark cell like room on the end of his bed, my face swollen from crying, when I decided to take this picture. I was hesitant to take that picture because I worried about what people would say. Why would I photograph that moment? I saw the image in my head before I took it though, a vision of something pure and real and so I photographed it. This is what this looks like. This is the face of this disease. Maybe I wanted a reminder that this is ugly or that there's not always a silver lining to things. I can candy coat things only so much. But also, that picture is part of the story, a record, an account. I was thinking about all the special moments we photograph in life. The birth of a new baby. That first birthday. Graduations. Weddings. All of these monumental moments in life, but not all monumental moments are pleasant or joyful. I guess I just wanted hard copy proof of that. Maybe I wanted people to see that the face of death is easy; it's the face of dying that's hard to look upon. Really and truly, that's the hard part.

My past experiences have prepared me for the hard parts. That picture is a reminder that I know how to weave my way around the hardest part and find a way to be OK on the other side of things. But I won't lie. The hard parts are HARD.