ruth died in september 1999.
i was a freshman in college. though i'd only been there a few weeks, already i'd begun my precipitous slide into D-territory in chemistry and zoology, already this was one of the worst years of my life. and then ruth died.
honestly, i cannot remember if steven was or was not gay at this time. i think he wasn't. but that had happened as of september 21st and ruth died september 29th, so it was all very very new. it was all very very confusing. and in the midst of that, ruth died.
i had to go to joe's funeral because i hadn't been at ruth's and, because i hadn't been at ruth's, it had taken, like, ten years to even begin to mourn.
i refuse to have regrets. had i not gone to joe's funeral, that would have been one.
this ties together.
joe was scanning my father's slides. he happened upon an amazing photograph of ruth. it is, i contend, the greatest photograph my father has even taken. in it, ruth is a total badass. her pink lipsticked lips curled into a sneer as she exhales cigarette smoke and deigns to let my cousin sign the plaster cast on her broken arm. her white hair shines like glory in the setting sun. her bra strap is visible.
this is a photograph william eggleston wished he had taken.
i decided this would be the piece of art that would define my new home. i would have it blown up and frame it and it would take the place of honor in the reception room.
mind you, this was a photograph taken from a teeny tiny slide.
weeks ago, i asked my father if he could go to joe and burvil's and scan it. he said no. he said it was a fool's mission. it was, you know, a teeny tiny slide. and so i set out on my own to resolve this problem. i uploaded the photo to boots, ignored their copious warnings that it couldn't possibly print out clearly due to its size and processed my order.
it arrived on a thursday afternoon.
it was GLORIOUS.
an hour later, joe was dead.
my father and i skyped the next night, late late, 1 a.m. london time, after i got back from burgers and scotch with HNP. the week before, he had mentioned that he was sending a letter and 'a tube'. that night, i mentioned that royal mail had informed me i had a package. i thought it was the internet router. he wondered if it might be the tube. i gave him a tour of the flat, because i'd not had internet before all this happened and now i did. he said i needed to work on the color scheme but he liked my red couch. he said it would go well with that picture of grandma ruth. i told him, that was what i was thinking. in fact, i'd had it printed up.
my father looked at me in disbelief. he said, 'but i had that printed for you!'
and i said, 'but you said it wasn't possible!'
his response: 'well, you know i have to fix everything!'
my response: 'and you know i have to do everything on my own!'
and so, in the end, i have two 20 x 30 copies of the greatest photograph my father has ever taken. which feels like an extravagance and yet also incandescently right.