This Lost Photo Helped Heal Their Wounds

How a missing picture of her late father reunited her family.

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Posted in , Jan 25, 2022

Connie's father as a boy; Photo credit: Connie E. Connely

I was sorting through old photos with my mother, looking for a specific picture of my father. I’d recently gotten a scanner and was in the process of digitizing our family pictures.

“Where on earth is that picture of Mumpsy and Dad?” I asked. I’d seen the picture in a frame at my grandma Virgie’s house when I was a child. It showed my father as a boy, in a suit, holding his beloved Boston terrier, Mumpsy. It was one of my favorite pictures of him, and the only one I hadn’t found yet.

“Maybe Jean has it,” said Mom. “We could ask her.”

I looked at Mom as if she had three eyes. She could not be serious!

Grandma Virgie had had two sons, Dad and Uncle Ralph, who was married to Jean. Mom and Jean had always had a difficult relationship. Jean would say snide and disparaging things to Mom. While Mom tried to rise above it, Grandma Virgie hadn’t helped. She’d encouraged the antagonism between her daughters-in-law by spreading gossip. It made it difficult for everyone to get along. Then, after Grandma Virgie passed, Uncle Ralph announced that he had helped Grandma to remove Dad’s name from her bank account, essentially keeping Dad from receiving any inheritance.

With that, any connection we’d tried to keep up with Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jean disintegrated, and our family forever split in two. Both my dad and my uncle were dead now. Mom and I had no contact with Jean.

Yet here was Mom, proposing to reach out to Jean after nearly 30 years.

“I’m in my eighties,” Mom said with a shrug. “Jean’s just a little younger. Neither of us has many years left. Why not give it a try?”

I couldn’t argue with that.

Mom looked up Jean in the Whitepages and called her. Jean had inherited boxes and boxes of Grandma Virgie’s old photos, but they weren’t organized or labeled, so Jean invited Mom over to help her look for the picture of Dad and Mumpsy. Mom agreed. They set a date for a few days later.

“If she acts the way she used to, I’ll turn right around and leave,” she promised me right before she left for Jean’s house. I thought she’d be back in an hour or so, but she didn’t return until close to dinner. She explained what had happened.

Mom and Jean had sat down at the kitchen table to sift through photos. After a bit, Jean had apologized for the way she’d behaved years before. She insisted she’d changed since then.

“And you know what? I could see that she meant it,” said Mom. “She seemed more relaxed, more self-assured. She seems to have a greater sense of purpose now. She’s earned a college degree since we’ve lost touch, and she’s become an artist. She has even sold a few of her paintings!”

“Wow, that’s quite the transformation!” I said.

Mom said that for the next couple of hours, they caught up. They got through all the boxes without finding the photo and went out to lunch. Then, when Mom was dropping Jean off back home, she invited Mom in for coffee.

“Jean and I spent another hour just chatting,” Mom said. “We were really enjoying spending time together. Then Jean took out a photo album of Virgie’s that had pictures of Uncle Ralph in the Navy during World War II, just to show me.”

“I guess y’all didn’t come across the Mumpsy photo,” I said.

“Oh, I almost forgot. Guess what was tucked into the back cover of the album and fell out when she opened it up?”

Mom held up the picture of Dad and Mumpsy. Lost until Jean and Mom had healed their old wounds.

After Mom’s visit, Aunt Jean, Mom and I started getting together regularly. We all have framed copies of that picture of Dad and Mumpsy. I keep mine displayed on my mantel. A reminder of how we were drawn back together as a family.

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