Last night I digitized some old photos. I’ve been doing this off and on for the past six months or so, since I bought a scanner. It’s incredible what an emotional experience looking at photos can be. This particular photo, the one included above, is a favorite of mine. I’ve had it framed in my office for years, since I was in college. It’s a photo of my grandfather, Henry Beitzel, sitting at¬†his desk job at Mesta Machine Company in Pittsburgh. He worked as a clerk, typing what I can only imagine were mind-numbing reports about steel production all day long. On the back, handwritten in blue ink, it reads “Sad Ass Hank, 1972.” The descriptor is dead-on accurate, as Pop doesn’t look too pleased to be at his job. And, I imagine, it was taken in 1972. Plus, if you look closely, you’ll notice his arm is in what appears to be a homemade sling.
I like this photo because it’s real. There’s no posed grin, or awkward Holiday glaze captured like many other family photos. You see that Pop was dealing with the daily struggle, just like you and me are today. Memory has a tendency to romanticize the past, and pictures play such a huge part in that. This one tells it like it is: work is work. But it also reveals the weirdness of everyday life. Like, where did the sling come from? If Pop were alive today, he might not even remember what put his arm in that state, but it’s just one of those things that happened to him. I miss this guy terribly. I feel like he would have some good advice for me were he still around today. Lately I’ve really felt like I could use it.