Sunday, November 2, 2014

Made It: Memory Collage

Hello! At age 92, my dad's hanging in there, but some health issues over the summer warranted the eventual move from the assisted living unit of his nursing facility to the memory unit with its higher level of care. 

As is often true in such units, there's a small shadow box outside my dad's room, meant to display a meaningful representation of his life. I was told by one of my siblings recently that the design of this display had fallen to me. Since I don't have a lot of objects that had belonged to my dad, I chose to make a collage of family photos and other images. 

I was a little nervous about approaching this task. I happen to come of a family of several siblings, and we're all opinionated in our own ways. I could just see them scrutinize the finished collage and then tell me how I should have made it. The other problem is that I had never really paid attention to see how other families had made these displays, so I wasn't exactly sure how my dad's should look. 

Still, I figured something was better than the bare shadow box he currently has, so I worked on this project recently and got it mailed out over the weekend. To fit the shadow box, the collage had to be no larger than a standard sheet of paper. 

As I soon learned, it's not easy to shrink the facets of a 92-year-old's life down to a 8 1/2"x11" piece of paper. But here's what I managed to come up with:

I know that the images shown above aren't really big, so I'll dsecribe each one, starting with the upper left-hand corner and going clockwise:

  • photo of my dad and late mother; taken for their church directory
  • University of Michigan emblem; my dad got a graduate degree from U-M, thereby starting what I now consider an unfortunate allegiance to U-M sports by the majority of my siblings. Only one sister and I dared to be different and became Spartans! 
  • below the U-M emblem is a Detroit Tigers cap; my dad emigrated to Detroit from Italy when he was a young boy. Even though I was just eight in 1968, I can still remember his excitement over the Tigers' march toward a World Series championship that year. 
  • map of Italy from a vintage world atlas. Dad was born in Milan, but his family roots are 100% Sicilian.
  • image of spaghetti with sauce. We had a lot of this when we were kids; it was an inexpensive way to feed a family of 10. My dad would make a huge pot of spaghetti sauce at a time. If we were lucky, occasionally he'd use some of his sauce to make a casserole he called baked spaghetti. It was really good! Even after we kids had grown up and moved out of the house, he'd still make those big pots of sauce. It would be ladled into large containers and stashed in my folks' basement freezer. Guess what we usually had for dinner when we came home for visits? Yep, spaghetti with my dad's sauce. 
  • photo of my dad from WWII; he was in the Army Air Corps (the forerunner of the US Air Force). I don't know where the photo was taken; possibly the small island in the South Pacific his unit was sent to. He also spent time stationed in Hawaii, Japan (after the bombs had been dropped), and stateside posts.  
  • family photo taken in July 1996. If it looks like a lot of people are present, well, several more grandchildren and a couple of great-grandchildren have been added to the family since then. (a spouse has been added too)
  • a small paragraph, taken from a vintage encyclopedia, discusses the profession of social work, the career my dad had for several decades. Because of the confidential nature of his job, he could rarely say much about it. But in high school I'd occasionally have kids come up to me upon recognizing my last name. They'd tell me they'd had to see my dad after having trouble with their parents or whatever and he had helped them a lot. I was very proud of him when I'd hear these stories. 
  • the reference to "jokes, jokes, jokes" (photocopied from a vintage joke book I'd found at an estate sale several years ago): anyone who knows my dad knows that he's always making a quip or retelling a joke he'd read somewhere.  As he'd gotten older and suffering more from dementia, the jokes have often become repetitive. However, my husband and I still recall some of the truly funny quips my dad had made in years past. 
Not shown in the collage are the captions I eventually wrote under each image, explaining how the images pertained to my dad. Alas, I can already think of an "oops" in one of the captions: I was so focused on remembering the children who'd come along since the family photo was taken (eight in all!), I'd forgotten to mention that a spouse had married into the family! If any of my siblings sees this, they are free to add that fact to the collage. (or maybe I'll have to make another copy of it and rewrite the one caption. 

Oh, well, as I'd said, it's not easy to condense such a long life to one piece of paper. But I tried! I hope that my dad - and the rest of my siblings - like it.

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