In about a month, it will be three years since my father died. His death was not a surprise, yet my mother had done almost nothing to prepare for it. She thrives on the drama of a manufactured crisis.
My father used to buy things and intentionally never use them. He would talk about buying something for a long time, and eventually he would get it, and promptly put it away. He also did this with gifts, and if we asked him why he wasn't using something he had claimed to have wanted, he would just say he was saving it. After his death, my mother realized that the majority of the things in my father's dresser and closet had never been used. The price tags were still attached.
His seemingly hoarded possessions consisted of shirts, T-shirts, jackets, socks, wristwatches, books, cowboy boots, a telescope, tools, videos, coffee mugs, jewelry, caps, and cameras, among other things. The camera equipment included a video camera he used less than a handful of times, at least a half-dozen cameras, expensive lenses still in their boxes, and a tripod that had never had the plastic or tags removed.
The week after my father passed away, I was in Florida helping my mother plan Dad's funeral. I asked if she wanted me to go through some of his things so she wouldn't have to do it. I did this because for months she had been saying that when I came down, she wanted me to sort through as much of his stuff as I possibly could. When the time came, though, she said she would just have somebody come in and take it all away. It hadn't ever occurred to her that my brothers, my uncle, or I might want some of these things for our own. She would never think of something like that.
One thing I did take home with me that trip was my father's Minolta 35mm film camera. It's a great camera, and I have used it many times. My dad never quite mastered the automated settings, yet he bought lots of lenses and accessories for it. I thought there were only a couple of photography related things left, but I was wrong. Today, a large box arrived in the mail. I opened it and a 50mm Nikon lens literally fell out into my hand, narrowly missing the hardwood floor.
The box was filled with camera bags that were haphazardly stuffed into the box without any packing material to cushion the contents. Each camera bag was just as haphazardly filled with cameras, lenses, flashes, manuals, and more. Among the equipment, there is a video camera, a movie camera, and a seriously vintage (1940s) Argus 35mm camera. There is more, but I haven't yet had a chance to sort through it and take a proper inventory. Will I ever find a place for film again in my now-digital world? Do these cameras really mean something to me?
I hope nothing is broken. My father cared for things so meticulously it bordered on obsessive-compulsive behavior. He would have had a heart attack had he seen my mother's latest passive-aggressive act of spite. No bubble wrap, no newspaper, no styrofoam peanuts. This is how my mother operates. She is not a patient person, and if she resents doing something, she barely does it all. She knows the camera equipment she sent is worth at least $1,000--probably more--but since it's of no interest to her, she threw it in a box, barely taped it shut, and sent it without insurance or even so much as a "fragile" sticker on the side.
Now it is up to me to figure out what to do with these items. I already have 14 cameras of my own, none of which are compatible with the lenses my dad had. I noticed there is a half-used tape in the video camera. It might take me a while to take a look at that. The Argus is worth serious money, especially since it is in its original custom leather case and it has the user's manual, which is in perfect condition. There is an Argus Collector's Club that is alive and well around the world. Someone will want this camera.
Upon seeing the opened box, my husband's first question was, "What is this stuff worth? Will you sell everything or just some of it?" He sees this as a major Ebay opportunity, but he has a serious Ebay disorder, so he sees anything that hasn't been used for a few weeks as a possible revenue generator via auction or Buy It Now with free shipping. The fact that there might be sentiment involved for me hasn't registered yet, but he'll get there.
In the meantime, I keep coming back to the same troubling question: Given the amount of equipment spread out in the guestroom, where are all of the pictures? Surely my father took some pictures along the way. I hesitate to ask my mother.