My earliest memory of taking photos was when I was 15 years old. I borrowed my dad’s Sony Mavica he used for work. It was my first digital camera, and it recorded photos on a floppy disk. I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I took over 500 photos on a 10 day trip in Germany. Each floppy disk held about 20 photos, so basically my entire carry-on bag was stuffed with full floppy disks on the flight back.
As technology improved, so did my photography skills and ability to store mass amounts of photos. My iPhone makes me seem like a professional when I’m in “portrait mode” and has over 12,000 photos currently stored on the cloud.
On average, I take about 20 photos a day. Not award-winning photos and not typically anything I want to hang on the wall, but mediocre, sometimes out-of-focus photos. I’m not a professional and I don’t aspire to be. Most of the photos I take these days are of my kids, but the rest are of random things I notice throughout the day or moments I just do not want to forget.
They say “take a picture, it will last longer,” and I am really counting on that to be true.
Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. That means over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, which is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Those who have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases if more than one family member has the illness.
My grandmother passed away over a year ago from Alzheimer’s disease. She suffered for many years and her memory loss not only caused her a deep amount of pain, it also caused her loved ones pain. My mother would visit my grandmother regularly at her Memory Care Facility and part of their visit would include looking at my photos on an app called Tinybeans.
Many days my grandmother could not remember who my mom was (her own daughter), but her eyes would brighten, and she looked forward to seeing new photos of my babies every time. Photos help stimulate memories for those with Alzheimer’s. I like to think photos of my babies helped remind her of all her children (9), grandchildren (18), and great-grandchildren (9).
When our first child was born, we were living 2,000 miles away from home, so I began using the online app specifically designed to track baby’s milestones and share photos safely with family and friends. Adding photos to Tinybeans became part of our daily routine, so much so that if a photo was not added, I would get a call from a family member concerned something had happened to us.
It was a no-brainer to continue to use the app after our second child was born. Also, we now live 7,000 miles from home.
Our son is almost 18-months old and only three family members have ever held him in their arms, but every single one of them has had the opportunity to watch him grow while following both of our kids around the world daily because I simply take photos and post them in the app.
After my grandmother passed from Alzheimer’s, for me, taking photos of our life became even more important.
I get a pit in my stomach thinking that one day my mom or my aunts might not be able to recognize me or my children.
They already don’t get to be a part of my children’s life due to our military lifestyle. The possibility of them not knowing my kids later in life because of Alzheimer’s breaks my heart. It will be as if my children never existed to them. I refuse to let that happen, so I make every effort to capture at least one photo per day, if not more for my family and for myself because let’s be honest, my chances are pretty high of developing the disease as well.
I sometimes worry that my kids will only ever see me as a Mamarazzi or worse, stop wanting to be photographed all together.
Urban dictionary defines Mamarazzi as a mother who constantly follows her children around with several cameras and video taking equipment, snapping photos at each turn and documenting each milestone or event with at least two dozen photos and a video. It can also be groups of aforementioned mothers.
Therefore, I do my best to not be invasive when I take photographs, which is why they are sometimes blurry or from a bad angle, and if I don’t capture the exact moment I wanted, I don’t sweat it. My kids have gotten used to me taking their photo and for the most part don’t mind. They each have a signature pose, both of which are a derivative of the standard peace sign, which is very popular here in Japan.
I also worry that I’m giving my kids some sort of complex by taking their photos all the time, making them feel overly important. Although, I am not so worried about this anymore because I make sure to take photos that highlight it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of our day.
When I first started using the online photo journal, I only posted cute, happy photos of my baby. It wasn’t until months later when a friend commented about how wonderful my little family was and how easy I made parenting seem that I decided to stop posting only cute photos.
The day she made that comment I was at my wits’ end from dealing with more sleepless nights than I could keep track of and a baby who had to be held upright at all times or she would scream due to a bad case of reflux.
All I wanted was a little sympathy or at the very least a small pep talk saying it would all get better soon, but she had no idea I was struggling. I never shared a photo of the bags under my eyes or the sad face my daughter would make after she spit up, which she did constantly. Now I share it all.
I want my friends and family to see our daily struggles and great accomplishments, but, most importantly, when we look back at these memories, I want us to remember our journey.
I want to remember my children as sweet, cuddly angels who like to nap together on Sunday afternoons, but also as the terrible, tantrum-throwing monsters who I have to carry over my shoulders out of the commissary. Both of these sides of them define who they are and what we have gone through together, and I just can’t handle thinking these memories won’t last forever.
More facts and information about Alzheimer’s can be found at www.alz.org