Garrett, waiting

Garrett, bored
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8
Kodak T-Max 400

I shot this while we were waiting for his mom to pick him up. She was late, he was bored.

This photo is in my book, Exceptional Ordinary: Everyday Photography with the Pentax ME. If you enjoy this photo, you’ll surely enjoy the book, which you can purchase here.

© 2013-17 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

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single frame: Garrett, bored



Garrett, down the hall

Garrett, down the hall
Minolta XG 1, 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor-X
Fujicolor 200

Over the last couple years this is the view I’ve had of Garrett most often: him gaming online in his room. We’re a family of introverts, and we’re all geeks to some extent. It’s really common when we’re all home to be involved in separate online pursuits. The house is good and quiet. We like it that way.

© 2017 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

single frame: Garrett, down the hall


Stories Told

Goodbye, Rick, sort of

Down the Road is on hiatus. New posts resume on Monday! Here’s one last rerun, one that’s special to me. I’m happy to run it again because the first time around (July of 2008) this blog was barely a year old and had few readers.

My brother and I didn’t see eye to eye on most things when we were kids. We didn’t hate each other, we just found each other to be extremely frustrating. We could make each other really mad with very little effort. The house rule was that whoever hit first was punished, so I knew I had really pushed Rick’s buttons when he pointed to his chin and said, “Hit me. Right there. Please.”


The man in earlier days

After I left our hometown for college, I didn’t see Rick except on holidays. He moved to my town eleven years ago, but I still barely saw him except on holidays. Our holiday times together were always fine, but somehow we seldom phoned and never dropped by.

But Rick was the first person I called when my now ex-wife wanted us to separate. He let me stay with him for a month, and he was a source of real strength as I started to recover from that horrible situation.

And then a couple years ago I ended up getting a job at the small software company where he worked. Understand that I’d spent my whole career, 17 years at the time, in software development. I even got my degree in mathematics and computer science, right up my career’s alley. But Rick got a degree in psychology, then worked seven years as a preperator in a museum and four in mortgage banking before making another big career change to come here. Both our careers had led to software quality assurance, his just through a very indirect route. We even reported to the same boss. And for the first time in our lives, my younger brother preceded me, and I lived in his shadow a little bit.

It has been great. Where daily childhood life emphasized our differences, adult work life has emphasized our similarities. We both like to think things through and do a thorough job. We both actively try to solve the problems we see. We both want to build team processes that make everybody more effective. We both want our teams’ efforts to bring more value to the company. So we regularly bounced ideas off each other, discussed thorny problems, and encouraged each other through challenges. I don’t think either of us knew the other had it in him.

It has long been clear, though, that Rick has grown about as much as he can at our company and was losing his enthusiasm. He needed new challenges – to learn new technologies and software development processes – to get his fire back. And so when I come back from vacation a week from Monday his cubicle will be empty. He’ll have a new job at a place that he thinks will provide the spark.

For the first time in my life, I’m going to miss my brother. Now that we have some momentum going, maybe we’ll call each other sometimes.

I’m happy to report, eight years later, that Rick and I have become very close. We still both test software for a living and swap war stories. And he’s still one of the first people I call when I need someone to talk to.


A ring and a date


We’re getting married two months from today!

We’re keeping it simple. We’re inviting just immediate family: our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children, and all of their spouses. That’s still a lot of people — Margaret is seventh of eight children, and between us we have seven children! We’re having a small, short, simple ceremony at a venue near Margaret’s house. And then we’re all going to Margaret’s house for food and music and family for the rest of the day.

Our Irish honeymoon is booked for late summer, so we’ll be returning to normal life on the Monday after our wedding. We haven’t figured out just yet how and when we’ll combine households, so we’ll pretty fluidly live between hers and mine for a while. It’s a nontraditional choice, to be sure, but after considerable discussion we see it’s best for our new combined family for now.

Life, Stories Told

Making traditions up as you go

A rerun from Nov. 2011, with an update at the end.

It’s my ex-wife’s turn to enjoy Thanksgiving with our sons, so I’ll be home alone tonight. Don’t weep for me – we had the family, the fine china, the turkey, and the post-dinner coma last Saturday.

Table set and ready

When I was small, we always had Thanksgiving with Mom’s family and sometimes again later with Dad’s. Mom’s family usually gathered at my grandparents’ palatial retirement estate – a narrow mobile home on a small lake. I swear we crammed 40 people in there every year. People ate their dinner anywhere they found a spot to squat.

My grandparents were the glue holding the extended family together, and after they passed nobody much wanted to gather for Thanksgiving. So we started having Thanksgiving at home, just the four of us. We did it up right with all the fine dishes and silver handed down generation to generation. When I married, we added new family members as they arrived. Eventually, eight of us fit around the table.

These days we have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and whenever it works out in odd-numbered years.

We have adapted to every change. We were sad each time to see old traditions pass, but soon our new traditions had taken root and began to create memories just as warm as the old.

Things have continued to change since I wrote that four years ago. My older son is off to college; he and his brother had Thanksgiving with their mom this year. My parents sold the family home and moved to Indianapolis last year, so we no longer drive to South Bend for this holiday. I have a girlfriend, Margaret, who has four children of her own. I invited them, plus my parents and my brother, to my house for Thanksgiving. My mom, Margaret, and I worked together to prepare the meal. It was crowded at the table, and a lovely time was had, but even so my sons’ absence was felt.

Stories Told

Grandpa and me

I’m retelling this story from Sept. 2012 because I alluded to it on Monday and I need time to build up a backlog of posts. I love this story and I hope you do too.

This is probably my favorite photograph of all time. Meet my grandfather, who is holding me shortly after my birth in 1967.

Grandpa was an engineer, and he and Grandma were living temporarily in Seattle while he worked on a project. They flew back to South Bend just in time for my birth. Shortly after Mom came home from the hospital, her entire family came to the house to meet me. A great uncle took this photograph.

That’s the short of it. The long of it is more interesting.

Years later, Grandpa admitted that they went to Seattle because he had been invited to work on the space program. He wouldn’t elaborate, but Grandma whispered to me that he had designed the landing mechanism for the Apollo 11 moon unit. Grandma was proud of Grandpa and tended to inflate his accomplishments. She used to say that half the trains in America stopped on his brakes, and half the airplanes around the world landed on his landing gears. So all I really know, I think, is that Grandpa played some part in the space program. But that’s exciting enough!

My great uncle was a photographer for the Chicago Tribune. He brought his enormous press camera with him that afternoon and aimed it at us for a couple of shots. Some time later, a giant manila envelope arrived in the mail. It bore the Tribune’s logo and address; it carried prints and negatives. One oversized print is framed and hangs in my home. This scan is from a smaller print, one that fit my scanner. The scan packs plenty of resolution – if you click the image to see it much, much larger, you’ll be able to read my grandpa’s watch. (It was 2:25 in the afternoon.)

I cling to this image because my grandfather was a hard man to know. He made up for it by doing lots of things with me while I was a boy. He taught me to bait a hook and cast a line; I spent many happy hours silently fishing alongside him. He’d take me along when he’d “run up to Phil and Ann’s,” which was a little general store out in the sticks where he and Grandma had retired. There he’d always buy me a balsa-wood airplane or a pack of mints. With Grandma, he even took my brother and I on a long vacation up the eastern Lake Michigan shore, all four of us riding abreast in his pickup truck.

After I went away to college, Grandpa fell ill and went in and out of the hospital. I was too far away to come home except on breaks, at which times somehow he was always home and well. The summer I turned 20, Grandma told me that Grandpa wanted my brother and I to come spend a week, like we had so often when we were kids. My brother and I were both working, so the best we could do was come up for a weekend. We did the things we always did there – a little fishing, a little running around, a lot of staying up late listening to Grandma tell stories about the old days. Sunday night came too soon and we had to go. We said our goodbyes, and as we walked out the door he hung out of it and said, “I love you guys.”

It was the first and last time I heard him say it. When I saw him next, at Christmas, he was unconscious in ICU, slipping away. He died just after the new year.

As hard as I cling to this photograph, I cling even harder to his last words to me.