Over the last few months I have been spending time getting to know our photographers in a different way. One that has me asking questions about why they became photographers, what experiences did they have that helped shape their values and how their work is a reflection of their true self.
The conversations got me thinking about myself and how those same questions pertain to my own life. So when my dad suddenly passed away, those conversations caused me to think differently about what I wanted to say about him at his service this weekend . So instead of just saying goodbye, I decided to explore how he shaped my own values and how he will continue to live on in me and my family.
My dad introduced me to photography at an early age. He worked for Polaroid so we always had cameras and film in the house. He let me take all the pictures I wanted. Film was expensive and so were the cameras so the fact that my dad put a camera in my hand was not typical for the time. I know that because of him I came to appreciate photography and eventually chose it as my career.
So, even though this blog features stories about the photography industry, it feels right to share my letter to my dad, give his story a place to live forever and thank him one last time for setting me on the path to the most rewarding career I could ever have hoped for.
Theodore Frank Steinmetz, September 17, 1943 – May 12, 2018
It was only a few months ago that my dad told me he was sick. And of course he did it in true Ted fashion, glossing over the details and of course spinning it positively. Since I am his daughter, I can speak “Ted” fluently and therefore knew it was important to visit soon. So John, Dylan, Casey, Brady and I decided to invite ourselves for Easter. We dropped everything and traveled from 4 different cities to have what we will always remember as our most special visit with my dad; Grampy.
Afterwards, I planned on writing him a letter to tell him how special the visit was but life got in the way and I thought I had more time . I know I would have written it because I started writing it in my mind a few times and I would like to think I would have given it to him for father’s day. At first I cried when I thought about that missed opportunity but a friend suggested I still write it. So, here we are.
I am sitting here in ‘Mona remembering our visit and smiling. I can’t believe all 5 of us were able to get it together to come. Thank you so much for such a special weekend. It was so nice to see you and Suzanne, hang at your house and get to know Karly and Mike and Ella, Addie and Ryan better. Sitting around the table at dinner that night with everyone, looking through old photo albums and telling stories about growing up felt nice dad and I wanted to make sure you knew that.
I also wanted to make sure you know how much we all love you. And how important you are to us. I realized on this trip that you are woven deep into all of us and when I look at Dylan, Casey and Brady, I see so much of you in them and I want to share that with you.
We need to start with Brady of course, the one that anyone who ever met you immediately says, “Oh, there’s Ted.” He has grown up knowing that you and he have some unspoken connection and for that I am so grateful. Like you dad; he walks into a room and everyone smiles. He is charismatic and charming but hasn’t yet learned how to instantly turn that charm on like you do, but that took time, didn’t it dad? He even looks like you when you were younger. Finally some Steinmetz to overcome those strong Elder genes. I’m nervous for how Steinmetz translates in high school and college but let’s just hope he doesn’t like margaritas.
When I look at Brady I see a mature young man, full of life and love, valuing his relationships more than you would think a 14 year old would. He has so much ahead of him but he is surrounded by people who love him so he will be just fine. And he has his connection with you dad, knowing that he is very much like you and you made your way just fine. When I look at Brady dad, I see you.
Then there is Casey. We call her the filling in our Oreo. It makes sense because she is the middle child and she is the one that binds us all together. But it also makes sense because like you she cares so much about the people around her. Her friendships are deep and she is generous with her spirit. Mostly though she is our only daughter. There is nothing like a love a daughter has for her father and I recognize that in Casey and John because I have that with you. And I know you know the power of that love too. The Polaroid photo you gave me of my 5 year old self hugging you embodies that love we have for each other. I carry the photo with me everywhere now and it makes me smile every time I see it.
When I see Casey, I see someone who is confident in her self, doesn’t get caught up in the drama of life and is happiest when she is with her family and friends. I see someone who loves deeply and puts family first every time. When I see Casey dad, I see you.
And then there is Dylan. I will always remember your smile when John and I told you we were pregnant with him. And, how cute were you two when he slept on your chest when we first brought him home from the hospital? Now, look at him. The perfect combination of Elder and Steinmetz. An entrepreneur whose business just happens to be all about betting. If your bookie had a line on Dylan, I know you would bet on him every time.
When I see Dylan, I see someone who isn’t afraid to take chances, who learned at a young age that when setbacks happen, the love and support of family get you through it. I see someone whose path is not traditional but it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t fly planes dad but the freedom that comes with following his dream will be with him forever. When I look at Dylan dad, I see you.
And lastly dad, I want you to know that so much that is good about me comes from you. People say I get things done, I make things happen, I shape my environment. I can take care of myself but prefer to take care of those that I love. I can get us a reservation when other people can’t. I know how to tip, upgrade a hotel room and solve the world’s problems over a bottle of chardonnay. I am not afraid to take a chance, be different than everyone else or to try something new. No matter what, I always felt loved by you and mom and because of that I am confident. Thank you for the best parts of me.
Dad, I also want you to know that it felt nice to be part of the love you have with Suzanne and Karly and Mike and the kids. It was so obvious that you live a life surrounded by people who love and care about you and that makes me happy. You and Suzanne created a wonderful life and it felt good to be part of that happiness for the weekend. It was comfortable and right and we all left looking forward to our next visit.
So even though it was just a long weekend dad, I felt a lifetime of love and will always remember it as my most special visit with you. I love you dad. Very very much. For so many reasons.
*My dad insisted LOL meant Lots of Love. It was easier and more fun to let him think so. While it made for some funny texts, it was always very appropriate for all the laugh out loud and loving times we had.
Lovely Heather! Sounds like he was terrific and you shared a special relationship. So sorry for your loss!
He’ll be in your heart forever!
Heather Very soothing and loving words Thanks for sharing as you learn to relate to your beloved Dad in new ways I lost my Dad a bit suddenly He never complained ever about anything but I knew to worry when he started to want me near him constantly He was already missing his only daughter I’m glad for you and your Dad you share an amazingly beautiful bond Because, it’s a forever bond and it is a part of why you’re so special to everyone My condolences, G.
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I really appreciate it. So many people have shared such lovely stories, it makes me happy that I posted the letter. And thank you for sharing a bit about your dad.