Here, the Caregiving Advice team shares their “stories behind the photo” to illustrate the ways there’s always more to the story than a photo reveals. From complex family dynamics and relationship nuances to the sadness hiding behind seemingly genuine smiles. From the bittersweet moments that happen before the camera’s flash to the intense memories and emotional triggers a photo may stir. And sometimes, it’s the deeply dimensional joy that even the biggest smiles on a device screen just can’t show. These are our visual caregiver stories of life, love, and family.
This picture was taken right before I left for college (that’s me in the top right corner with red hair). My siblings and I were out back-to-school shopping with our grandma, since our mom works full time and could only get time off for my move-in day. We stopped to try on hats at DSW among the shoe shopping we were doing. Even though we look really happy in this picture, this shopping trip was the last one we would take while we were all still living at home together full-time. This was the last summer that I would physically be there for them all the time.
Bobbi Jo’s story
This photo conveys so much more than a cute baby smile. It was 5 years ago, the day after Christmas, when my family —cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents — went bowling together. My sister and her husband were in from England and they informed us that a tradition for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is to go bowling. Four generations were in the bowling alley that day. For me, time spent with family offers stress-relief: and this day surely did. With Christmas behind us, the hustle and bustle of errands were complete and we all took this time aside to be together — to talk, laugh, and bowl up some strikes. I will always cherish this moment.
My 8-year-old daughter had her 5th surgery this February. While it’s hard to call a surgical experience with a child who has severe medical anxiety and PTSD “good,” this one was as good as it gets. She was able to express her fears and name them specifically. And because of that, I was better able to comfort her, and even facilitate self-advocacy: she told the anesthesiologist she did not want a mask over her face, but preferred the IV instead. I was shocked but so proud. She also expressed a fear of being alone in the operating room. Together, with the surgical team, we were able to assure her that would not happen. This calmed her immensely, and led us to the powerful moment of trust in the photo, seconds before they took her into the OR.
As we planned to spend Mother’s Day with my grandmother, I wanted to make the day before it extra special for my mom. Instead, it turned into a day of 3x reheated coffee, dead lawn mower batteries, our hired caregiver cancelling, and lots of emotions when my grandmother asked if her mom would be coming for Mother’s Day. I wanted it to be a special day, but it was a typical, expect-the-unexpected Saturday. And that’s okay.
Caregiving thrives on routine, but things are constantly being challenged, changed, cancelled, and reworked. We learn to aim for the best, but to be prepared for the worst, and consider ourselves lucky when we land somewhere in the middle.
A few days ago, my parents and I went on our biweekly visit to see my grandparents. Because of their needs and limited mobility, they were unable to attend my graduation the week prior. I was grateful, however, to my school for posting a video, and many beautiful photos of the event. Here, you can see my grandmother intently watching for me to appear on screen as all the graduates walked in to take their seats. What is hardly pictured, however, is my grandpa sitting in his rocking chair in the corner of the photo. That day, he wasn’t himself. He was quieter, he cracked less jokes, and he was having trouble walking and supporting his weight. What’s not pictured are the nurses attending to him. What’s not pictured are their questions, over and over, asking if he needed to go to the hospital. What’s not pictured is my family’s pacing, awaiting answers, and soon x-rays. What’s not pictured is my dad helping my grandpa use the bathroom. Love is not always glamorous, beautiful, and full of joy. Love is my grandma’s pride, but love is also my father’s patience, and my mother’s willingness to help her own father.
What’s your visual caregiver story? Send us a message & we’ll share it on our social media networks.