August 2, 1948 my grandfather, Rockfellow Benton, passed away. He was a commercial fisherman by trade and also built boats with his brother Woodbury. That day in August, many years ago, he was returning from a fishing trip and found himself in the midst of a storm. He was heading to the safety of the inland waterway when he noticed another boat trailing behind. He made the decision to turn and try and assist his fellow fisherman. That decision was the last one my grandfather ever made. While making the turn the wind and the waves cap sized his boat and my grandfather was never found. He was lost to the sea forever. This August 2, 2018 will be the seventieth anniversary of his death. On that faithful day, close to the mouth of the Shallotte River, my grandfather left behind a wife, three small children and one on the way. My father was one of those left behind. He was the oldest of the soon to be four children, he was eight. I cant imagine being eight years old and losing my father. I cant imagine how different my life would be today. Those are the same questions my father says passes through his mind still to this day. He often wonders how his life would be different if his father had stayed the course and headed to safer waters. My father grew up with little to no memory of his father. The majority of his fathers memories consist of stories he has been told about my grandfathers life. My father has a few of my grandfathers belonging’s, some tools and his old tool box. In this tool box are some of the very tools he used to build the boats with his brother. My father has a copy of his dad’s draft card with his signature on it, and he has a few pictures of his mom and dad together. The one thing he did not have was a picture of himself and his father together, until recently. My father will be 78 years old in June, almost seventy years without seeing a photograph of himself and his father together. Seventy years without holding that memory in your hand, seventy years without being able to remember a moment that was been lost in time. I have only seen tears in my fathers eyes a few times in my life. When he had a kidney stone, when his brother, his mother and Lindsay passed away, but when he showed me this picture and said “Look, I have my arm on his shoulder,” a tear once again fell from my fathers eye.
I am sure the reason my dad did not have a picture of himself and his father is taking a picture 70 years ago was no where near as common as it is today. I am sure everyone did not have a camera readily available and I’m not even sure how or where the pictures were processed. Today, we can pull out a device that will not only take a picture but we can send it all over the world in an instant. We don’t give taking a picture a second thought until our phone crashes, gets lost or is destroyed by some means, and all those memories are possibly lost forever. We carry our memories around in our hand, constantly. We touch a button and voila there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pictures that can take you back to a time that holds a special memory in your life. I thank God every day that Lindsay loved to take pictures of her friends and herself. Between her mother, myself, Kelli, Brett, and Jarrett we have thousands of pictures of Lindsay, and Jarrett both, on our phones and computers. I love looking at them to bring that moment to the forefront of my mind. When you lose a child, pictures and memories are all you have and the hard truth is, there will never be any more. Below are my two favorite pictures with Jarrett and Lindsay.
These pictures are framed and sit on a table in my bedroom so I can see them everyday, and everyday they make me smile. They remind me of the innocence of childhood and when I ran a close second to an American Girl doll and Rescue Hero’s. They remind me of hearing “Daddy’s home!” and the feeling of four arms wrapping around my legs with the tightest hugs ever. They remind me of the dreams of a father for the future and happiness for his children. I don’t have to search through hundreds of pictures on my phone to see these, they are there for me to hold, look at and remember.
Before your phone crashes, before it is lost, before it is destroyed, or before the “cloud” is full and pours all of your pixels out like raindrops, print those special memories for you and future generations to cherish, but most importantly print them so you can hold those memories in your hand.