This is the final portrait I'm doing, of my two favorite people in the world, my blood. I'm not quite finished with the project, but I'm close, and ready to share this one.
This was taken on a miniscule, 900 person island in Ireland, Inis Mor (one of the Aran Islands). We took our dad to Ireland in September of 2009, eight months before our mother passed. I know this wasn't technically a portrait from the past three years nor from the United States, but 1. whatever, turn down for what and 2. this is kind of where the project really started. Where I started looking outside myself, and my own feelings and experience, as a compassionate adult. And one that could start to really see her father and family as people. This trip was hard for them; Dad felt guilty for leaving but thrilled to go somewhere he'd dreamed of his entire life- he couldn't travel due to our mother's health. Bret, ever the tribal, loyal and loving optimist, wished she could be there. His pleasure was tempered with the incompleteness of our family.
The three of us spent the weekend traveling the entirety of Ireland by car. Yes, it was comical, PG-13 family comedy. Screaming car rides, cows in the road, bringing our father to a gay bar, tears and bike rides and the awing landscape of the UK. A silent walk outside Ashford Castle and the woods of County Cork.
This is all I'm gonna write for right now, because it is so tough. But this moment is so special to me, because it's the most unguarded, silly and jet lagged moment from the week. I don't even know what they were laughing at. There's one where Bret looks coiffed, perfect and serene... I think he'll be mad I picked this one. But he's just so happy in this moment. They both are. We were a family right then, if a bit sad and broken and missed out on a lot that other families did. But we made it all the way to Ireland, in support of our dad and each other.
Bret is better than me in so many ways. He is loyal, brilliant and refuses to hide from things: sentimentality and nostalgia, memories of our mother. He sees the best in people and always promotes silver linings. He appreciates beauty that other people don't see. I feel sad sometimes he couldn't have the beautiful family he deserved. I feel sad that our mother started ebbing away early enough that he remembered her at her best, and lost a relationship that was deep and authentic.
I feel separate from the two men here sometimes, because I don't always remember the best of her. But I do know I have the absolute best family anyone can ask for, and we're tougher and closer than most families because of what we went through.
We started here, ended in Dublin. We dropped Bret off at the airport for his solo Paris trip (I'd leave for Munich that night, off to fulfill my more debased portion of the vacation), and Dad and I took the morning to stroll a quiet Dublin neighborhood together, going into shops and talking. He opened up that morning, about his past and his relationship to our mother. He was devoted, yes, but not thoughtlessly- he had so much respect for our mother, and it's taken me years and my own marriage to realize caretaking is not necessarily a blind endeavor. It is a labor of love because you would give your life if it made that person even a little more comfortable.
Dad is wearing his first hoodie here, September in Ireland, the air breezy and full of salt. And my brother, so handsome, kind and brave, he's stood by our dad our entire life. I adore him. He is so like our mother.