A Picture’s Worth

I’d like to apologize for lying to each and every one of you…and to myself.

Our video and picture library of Cailyn is substantial. We were the crazy parents that bought a video camera just months before her birth and documented everything. Recently, I was looking back on old videos and paying close attention to the dates for purposes of benchmarking with Dalton. I was astounded and embarrassed to discover a pattern in our documentation.

Just prior to the Autism diagnosis, the videos stopped.

People take pictures and videos at a lot of events. Weddings, graduations, and holidays are great examples of things that we want to remember and document. We dress everyone up, take multiple shots, pick the best, and then touch it up. When looking through a scrapbook, you don’t usually find images of a divorce hearing or at a funeral. People don’t hang “D minus” papers on the fridge, because it’s a time, event, or feeling that we aren’t looking to remember.

It wasn’t a lack of pride that led to us putting down the camera. We could never lose pride in our children. The true motive was an aversion to remembering a time of deep depression that we were never fully confident we’d be able to leave behind.

The gap in videos and photos didn’t last forever. It went off and on in spurts. It’s relatively easy to see why we documented the things we did. Typically, Cailyn was interacting well and doing something that gave us hope. Each time that we brought out the camera, our spirit was silently rooting for this to be video evidence of a breakthrough moment.The gaps are harder to piece together. Based of dates, emails, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. I can sometimes recall specific moments or feelings that I subconsciously tried to erase from remembrance.

I hadn’t really looked through those memories in awhile. I used to browse that library all the time. The first time I took a stroll through memory lane following the Autism diagnosis, it was just too hard to continue. I saw the sparkle in the eyes of Amber and I playing with Cailyn. We were just kids; so enthusiastic and blissfully ignorant to the reality that life had awaiting us. I hated the happy me. When I looked back to compare Cailyn’s progress, it still didn’t make me feel better. We had documented great moments in the midst of turmoil and had selectively chosen how we’d remember that time in the future. It made the present seem so much more daunting.

You see, a picture is usually worthless. We use them to lie to each other and to ourselves. On Facebook, you get to see the video of Cailyn doing something new for the first time. You watch her dressed up in a brand new outfit for the last time that she’ll wear it without a stain. Of the fifty pictures we take, you’ll see the only one that we could get her to look at the camera and trick her into a smile.

A big reason that I felt it was necessary to do this blog was to not only show Cailyn’s progress, but to document how truly outstanding her gains have been in spite of the battles we’ve faced. Maybe even more importantly, I want this to serve as an alter of remembrance in our future. When we look back during a bad day, we’ll be reminded that we’d faced and overcome the giants in our past. When we have a good day, we’ll have an objective measurement and another reason to be thankful.

Life is full of mountains and valleys. We experience both in our average week. Regardless of how bad things get, I can look back at all of our old pictures and videos now. There is still some pain in watching those naive kids, but now Cailyn’s worst days run circles around the “good” moments that we had chosen to remember. We’ve also taken on the challenge of documenting our “real” moments. By being more transparent with our battles, we give ourselves opportunities to learn and to give hope to someone else.

Then what is a picture’s worth?

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