Slideshow – by Tom
Three generations of Turners gathered for dinner on a chilly, by Tucson standards, Seattle evening. The event was occasioned by the visit of Sarah’s parents and grandfather, ostensibly to enjoy an early spring vacation from their sunny Arizona digs, but really, she suspected, to check on the youngest member of the family’s lifestyle as a techie up in the wilds of the frigid Pacific Northwest.
Everyone else had stayed in Arizona – her brother and other sister – and kept the greater Tucson area as home. Her parents had settled in Tucson when the kids were small, and her grandfather had moved there when grandmother died back shortly before Sarah’s birth. From most points of view her relationship with her family was pretty good. She had not run away from them when she moved north, she just liked it in Seattle. She was not sure what they missed: her or teasing her.
Her Mom and Dad had been supportive of her going to school up here. She not so much froze her first couple of years, but she did find it chilly and the dampness went through her. Now though, it felt like home even if you might need a sweatshirt in June.
She had once been especially close to Pa, her grandfather, but they had grown apart over the years and their relationship, even when she was a teen, had been a bit prickly and burdened by his image of her as an eight year old. Pa was in his eighties and the slowly progressing Parkinson’s and the wide variety of medications he took on a regular schedule had not improved his demeanor. He was, she sighed to think, a cranky old man.
Now, in fairness, there had not been much grumpiness from him on this trip. He had been quiet, almost too quiet. He moved slowly and she suspected was fairly tired by the agenda they had kept him on. They had all seemed to enjoy the visit to the Space Needle. Economically it was unreasonable, though Mom, Dad, and Pa found her insistence on paying for it sweet. Despite early morning sunshine, by the time they got to the viewing deck in mid-afternoon clouds and showers generally obscured everything.
From there the Arizonans had retreated to their motel for a siesta and then it was dinner at Sarah’s. The menu was Thai food. No comments on her vegetarianism: she made them prawns, though she bought a different wok to cook them in. She bought them already cleaned; the smell in the kitchen was bad enough. Poor bugs.
From there, the highlight was a photo display. Last time she had been home she borrowed a box of the family photos to scan in. Tonight she was going to display them on her big new TV. She thought it would be fun: an act of preservation and display. They were amazed at the size of the TV, even more when she told them the main reason was for gaming: she needed something high definition, big, and fast enough to keep up with her gaming.
Mom and Dad took the dishes while she and Pa sat down to check out the TV and the photos.
“This thing is impressive. How could you afford it?”
“I’m doing alright Pa. They’re paying me alright.”
“No kidding, but what a toy?”
“What do you think of the photos?”
“They’re fine,” he said. He sounded bored, not really noticing. “You’ve come a long way from that little girl eating with the dog under the table.”
“I was always a little out of the ordinary Pa. Me and old Mabel were the only ones who liked that asparagus.”
“Mabel would eat anything. You were slightly more discriminating. So, you’re happy up here with your toys in this city filled with hippies and pinkos?”
“Pinkos? Really Pa. Use that term and nobody’ll know what you’re talking about. You’re lucky I know you.”
“Sorry. I have not come to terms with all that politically correct stuff you and yours up here are obsessed with.”
“Now Pa, who wants to get into that tonight, people up here are nice, even though some say they aren’t too friendly. Does it really seem all that weird up here? Aren’t the mountains beautiful?”
“They are when you can see them, every few days I imagine. I agree it is beautiful. I’ve been in Tucson thirty years now. Love it. Good enough for me. Couldn’t you make good money at home with the rest of us in the sun where you know people are polite and you can get decent food?”
“You didn’t like dinner?”
“Dinner was fine, I guess, if you like that Asian stuff. I’m old Sarah. Set in my ways. I miss what I love, wonder why it has to go away.”
“I’m sorry Pa. I am not running away from you. I’m just living my life. And I like it! I’m down to see you pretty often.”
He looked up to a picture of her and her siblings.
“You’re bigger on the screen than you were when that was taken.”
“I think they look neat, special,” chimed in Sarah’s mother. “I like seeing you as kids again, thank you so much Sarah.”
“It is kind of neat. And we can look at these at home too?” asked her Dad.
“Yes. They’re stored online and in a flash drive I saved for you.”
“Such a fuss over gadgets,” added a now cranky Pa.
They all grew quiet, watching the slideshow of pictures continue to play. Pa was starting to fidget and Sarah, despite herself, was starting to wonder when the three of them would call an end to the evening.
Then a black and white photo of two women popped up. They were standing in a blooming garden, one woman young and the other about the age of Sarah’s mother. It was an old photo, but clear and well taken. It had scanned well and retained its detail.
They heard Pa gasp, then the picture moved on.
“Hey. Bring that one back. Can you bring that one back?” Pa asked.
As it flashed back up, Sarah paused the slideshow.
“What is it Pa?”
“I remember like it was yesterday. Look at that. She was so lovely.” His voice caught a bit, “they were both so lovely.”
She looked at him, his eyes shiny and full behind their big thick lenses.
“That was the day I introduced them, my mother and the woman who was to become your grandmother. Mother and Maggie, it’s good to see you,” he said to the big screen.
He forgot himself for a moment. Then he sat quietly and stared.
The evening was over in short order. In a few minutes Sarah’s parents called an end to the festivities.
Pa stopped at the door and hugged Sarah more tightly than she imagined he could. He stepped back, smiled, thanked her. He shook his head.
“I’m really impressed. Our littlest girl has really grown up.”
She interrupted and started to explain how it was not much at all.
“It might not have been much to you but it took me back a long way” as he shushed her with a shaky finger at his lips, “and if what you said is right, I can look at it anytime I want, big enough for these old eyes.”
“I’m so glad Pa.”
“Now, it would have been perfect if we had a picture of you and that old dog eating asparagus off the same plate.”
“Too true Pa, too true.”
She smiled as she closed the door behind them. She smiled thinking of how happy he was. And how happy she was that she had pulled the picture of herself eating with the dog and made sure no one else was going to see it.