We walked in a snowstorm. When was that? Before or after the hospital? It must have been before. I wanted you to see the beauty of it. How clean it all becomes. How muffled the sound. Flakes clung to your brows and careened off your glasses. Through a smile thin and uneven, you whispered that it was beautiful. Unsteady. Mom and I walked on either side of you, holding your arms. I think I knew it was your last snowfall.
This bittersweet memory lingers—the final adventure I went on with my dad before his rapid and severe decline. My dad, David Orr, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when he was 61 years old. I was 21 at the time. In the following years as I was beginning my adult life, his was was ending. After a week of being unable to eat or drink, my dad died surrounded by his family in the early hours of May 1st 2017. He was 67.
Alzheimer’s Disease is anything but linear. In its mist, memory can become a light dusting or a thick sludge, a blend of past, present, and future. Here is a Poem is a book project that investigates my dad’s journey intertwined with my own. There are 80 rolls of film I shot on which I found images of my dad, taken roughly over eight years from when I was in high school through his diagnosis and until he passed away. This book combines the images of my dad with other images of my own daily life found on these same rolls of film, still lives of items he left behind, and text chronicling my own fleeting memories of our time together.
I never got to know my dad as an adult without the filter of the disease. The creation of this book also serves as an attempt to now get to know him in a way I was never able to.
Production slated to begin 2024.
A Father, a Son, a Disease and a Camera (an alternate version of this work) was published in the New York Times.
***. That summer was the first time I saw fog. You pulled the car over to the side of the road, put on your speedo, clambered down the the embankment and dove into the cold water. No one else in my family could muster the courage to brave the cold or the possibility of what lurks below.
***. Those damn conversations in the locker-room that you would get us into. You were always so friendly and wanted to chat. Connecting with people feels so unnatural sometimes for me. How did you do it?
***. He was so often alone, trapped in that apartment. I wish it could have been different. I’m sorry.
***. Man, he was a good dancer. It made him happy and he really didn’t care. Maybe that is all it takes.
***. I remember the nights we would pile blankets, pillows and sleeping bags in the bed of your red Toyota pickup and you would drive us on the dark desert roads, just to look at the stars.