For five weeks I have worked day after day, to shoot, sometimes for 6-hours at a time, and lay the ground work for the first eight features of 16 Stories from 16 Square Blocks. In an accidental search for identity, over the course of the past month I have come to explore my Chinese heritage and begin to understand a confusing culture that I seem to have almost missed growing up as a second-generation Asian-American. Last week I met Virgilio (Gil) Besabe, an 85-year-old World War II Filipino veteran. Suffering from many debilitating ailments, and recovering from massive heart failure, he has lived a rich life now condensed into dozens of photo albums and endless memories. He shuffles through life with small, baby steps, occasionally pauses to catch his breath, then explodes in raucous laughter at a light-hearted poke at life. Working intimately with him has opened a door into my life, where I see similarities, but many differences between him and the situation facing my grandparents, my mother's parents.
In December, I returned home for a familiy reunion, where I was reunited with cousins, aunties, and uncles, some of whom I had not seen for more than a decade. With a small family, most of my relatives either reside in Hawaii, or are dispersed throughout Canada. Two weeks of casual dim sum lunches, Chinese dinners, and salmon brunches culminated in an elaborate Chinese banquet to celebrate my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary on Christmas day. This year was particularly difficult to see the changes in my grandparents that become ever-more obvious with each return home to the islands. As if an outsider looking in, I feel disconnected and only see dramatic jumps instead of the fluid transformations of life's ups and downs. Compounded with dementia and physical ailments, I see them growing further apart in their old age, increasingly stubborn in their resistance to losing their independence, and denial of their old age. This is particularly true with my grandmother, 90, who nearly convinced my uncle to purchase a computer for her, when something like figuring out the answering machine on her cordless home phone, simple to you or me, entails five phone calls to my mother insisting it's broken and in need of replacement.
I do not know all the details of the current situation at home, though in the past couple weeks my grandparents have finally conceded to the idea of assisted living and a transition out of their condominium into a home. It's not that my mother doesn't want to deal with it, because God only knows the years of sacrifice, financial burden, and the stress and worry that have carved into her conscience. Rather, being the only child near her parents has left her with a tremendous reponsibility and obligation to ensure their well-being that is difficult to manage as one person. This development may provide the ideal situation where my grandparents' health and safety will be safe-guarded, while my mother, who still works full time, may finally find time to seek peace and contemplation in her garden, or relaxation on the couch below the humming whirl of the ceiling fan.
This image was taken on a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L lens.
Check back again next week Wednesday for the 52/52 picture of the week!