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Friday Slide Show: A Day Of Echoes Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

6 November 2015

Thursday was going to be, we knew when we closed the book on Wednesday, a particularly somber day. It would mark 10 years since Dad passed away.

We planned to put our computer to sleep for a while and visit the cemetery. That was all.

But life has a way of dancing when it goes out for a walk.

Joyce woke us up with the blinding light from her iPad. "Look!" she said, waving an email in front of us. We squinted, saw a photo of an infant, noticed the email had been sent by our niece and realized she'd had her baby.

"Read it," Joyce commanded.

"Wow. Ten pounds!"

"No, the name."

We vaguely recognized the name. Michael. "Oh, a new and improved Mike!" we applauded. Where do we put down the yoke?

Well, not so fast, Original Mike. Work to do. So before the morning was out, we'd charged the battery for our camera and loaded it into a bag with a spare lens for a visit to the hospital.

Life has a way of dancing when it goes out for a walk.

But first, we drove to the cemetery.

It was a brilliant day as we arrived not through the main gate -- which always paralyzes us with the fear it will close with a theatrical clang and never let us out -- but through the gardener's entrance further down the road. We once knew a gardener who worked there. Max. But he spaded away, as they say gardeners do. Still, we always salute him as we gun the car up the hill.

As we approached the military section of the cemetery where Dad is buried, we saw motorcycle cops and a funeral director signaling us to turn left. Which is what we always do anyway. They were reserving the area down the hill for a burial.

We parked a bit behind a white Dodge van and went about our business.

There are three graves we always visit in that section. This time we visited the three friends in reverse order. John, Jerry, Roy. Then we cleaned Dad's headstone, found some plastic cups, filled them with water and arranged the blue and gold flowers we'd brought.

As we busied ourselves, we noticed a Marine in dress blues standing at attention by the side of the Dodge. There wasn't a soul (well, no living ones) around but he stood at attention anyway.

When the procession arrived for the burial down the hill, he marched slowly across the section, making sharp right-angled turns, never stepping on a grave, until he had reached a spot still distant from the burial ceremony and still high on the hill.

And there he stopped, standing at attention again.

No one noticed him but us. No one commanded him. He might as well have been an apparition. But the respect he showed the deceased made a strong effect on us. He would, in a few moments, play taps on his silver bugle. We were sure of that.

But we didn't stay to hear it. We were glad Dad, who had been a Marine himself, would get a rendition of taps on the tenth anniversary of his death. But our day was not done.

We made it to the hospital and, to our surprise, even found convenient parking. When we entered the room, we congratulated the new mother and father as the hospital photographer Paola was bundling up the baby in the sunlight for the complementary photo. Canon 6D, if you must know.

When she left, leaving an elaborate brochure behind with various package deals that cost as much as a dSLR, our niece took out her Nikon D60 to get a few shots of us holding Mike. But she used flash.

She closed the flash but the shutter was too slow so we set her ISO to 800. "Try that." Much better.

Then we took a few shots with our Nikon D300.

We shot Raw, as always, but we intended all along to convert the images to black and white. There is something about baby pictures that cry out to be monochrome. Instead of oversaturated skin color, you get the subtle shape of a new face echoing the face of its ancestors.

By the time we got home, we were tired. We made an espresso and sat at the table, looking at the late afternoon sky over the ocean. It was spectacular.

So we grabbed the camera to take a few shots of Mike's first San Francisco sunset.

The water was much more sharply detailed than usual because a break in the clouds only let a ray of sunlight streak through. Later, we saw a remarkable light show as the sun dropped behind the big Eucalyptus trees and flooded the canopy of clouds with light.

The clouds echoed the setting sun, the ocean echoed the clouds.

We snuck into the bunker to take a look at our images, converting the baby pictures into black and whites. They looked a little clinical, though, so we used a Split Tone to warm them up a tiny bit. Not full sepia but just a hint.

The day wasn't done dancing yet, though.

As night fell, the phone rang. It was another nephew. His brother, working late, had asked him to do a favor. Call us to give us the news before we heard it from anyone else. He and his wife were going to have a baby. In May.

He called himself a few hours later when he got off work and we had a few laughs about what to name the baby, echoing an earlier theme.

Our name repurposed, the Marine in dress blues on the anniversary of our father's passing, the sunlight reflected in the clouds and off the surface of the ocean at sunset, the news of a new baby the day after the birth of our newest.

It was a day of echoes.

As we hit the sack, we thought of that solitary Marine and imagined we could hear him at last. Day is done. But we persist in our echoes.

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