|The Mahanke brood - June 1959|
One of the major but worthy diversions keeping me out of the studio lately has been a concentrated effort to get the "family archives" in order. I am the keeper of old photos and photograph albums plus various newspaper clippings, letters and heirlooms my mother saved/collected and passed on to me. I've been a fairly good steward of these items, except that much about them is not really written down, too many oral stories bantered about by relatives, and bits and pieces stuffed in files to be left unconnected. I've said for years that, if nothing else, I'd like to get the pictures and letters scanned, then get what I know written down. I'm finally devoting significant time to this.
And I am loving it. I am a researcher at heart, and love history of all kinds. I love to tell a good story (you may have noticed), and I love to make connections that help me understand the bigger picture. It hadn't occurred to me, though, just how time consuming this would be. Nor just how much stuff I have that needs to be scanned and coordinated. I've set myself a monumental task that I now see will take longer than I thought. Yesterday, I pretty much removed everything from the two file cabinet drawers where most of this is kept, suddenly realizing what a daunting task this is. But it is an important task, and I owe it to my brothers and the next generations that are showing an interest.
So this accounts for some of the lags in posting here, though it doesn't mean I'm not going to be spending time in the studio too. Just that the way I divvy up my time has temporarily changed, weighted a bit more to family history than the creative journey. Today is a good case in point. My dad died back in the 1990's so normally I let father's day come and go without much thought. And if I did think about it, I'd be thinking about our personal relationship, looking for photos of the two of us.
But today, I found myself wanting to find a different sort of picture, probably because I've been working with letters my oldest brother wrote back in 1956 and searching the family photo album for pictures from that time period. What I needed today was a picture of dad with all of his kids - there are so few of them because the age difference between the first and last child is 15 years and that oldest brother died about 5 months after the picture at the top of the post was taken.
I look at that picture, dad and his brood, see and feel the responsibility on his shoulders. Gosh, he was a hard worker all his life, and with this many mouths to feed, it was always a strain to make ends meet. He worked in the silver mines, rarely taking a sick day since it meant losing a day's pay. When the mines went on strike, he found jobs elsewhere to keep food on the table until the strike was resolved. He never wanted to be pitied and he certainly never wanted charity. He was a tough old bird, sometimes hard to love, but always doing what he needed to do no matter how hard. Happy Father's Day and rest in peace, dad. You deserve it.