We had our photographs taken last Saturday. We got all dolled up and made up and went down to our church to get our photo made for the church directory.
I have to say the preparation for the big event took a lot, I mean a lot longer than the actual picture taking took, which tells you how good the photographer was and how much work it takes for us to look purty.
We missed the last church directory but one of our life lines to the church sent me an e-mail and offered to come and take our picture for the directory. We chose instead, when offered, to make our way down for the official photograph. I saw it as an outing and an adventure.
Personally I don’t like having pictures taken, they remind me I have aged and I never did much like my picture smile. When I was younger and full of machismo I could pull off the manly frown or grimace, you do that at 59 it makes me look like a curmudgeon (maybe the truth).
Marty on the other hand had a great photo smile. She could paste that sucker on regardless of the preceding circumstances and come off looking positively joyous in any picture taken. She had it down, just enough teeth without too much of the dental work, the smile turned up at the corners of her mouth in a perfect lip to smile ratio.
But the strokes affected that too. Marty can’t move her left arm at all, she can’t use her left leg except spontaneously and she doesn’t have tight small muscle control over the left side of her face. You can’t see it in normal circumstances but when she tries to do the photo smile it too often looks more like a grimace than a smile.
Now her post stroke spontaneous smile, the smile right before she laughs or if something really lights her up is radiant perfection, it is joy incarnate and covers her whole face from her eyes to her chin. The trick is finding a way to get that spontaneous smile at just the right time, right before the shutter clicks.
Marty has always tended to the ribald and downright crass parts of life. That has not changed. She loves a good dirty joke and for whatever reason potty humor and potty acts cracks her up and sends her to belly laughter land.
I know this, I’ve known this and any picture you have seen of her post stroke where she has a broad smile on her face, just know, right before the click, I whispered “fart” in her ear. It works every time.
Knowing the photo session was coming up, in addition to coordinating outfits (something I never thought I would want or need to do); we rehearsed the picture smile with me trying out various words to illicit her genuine spontaneous smile.
“Fart” and she smiled. “POOOP” got a pretty good smile. “Diarrhea” cracked her up. We practiced several times and we were set.
The day of our photo session we got dressed, me in my black suit (hey it’s slimming) and red tie and Marty in her black suit with a red jacket. She had on make-up and I struggled to control my flop sweat. We were beaming and a joy to behold.
Diarrhea….we continued to practice the smile and Marty continued to laugh every time.
We got to the church and Renee helped me get Marty out of the van, I picked up my jacket, my phone, a hankie for the sweat and a brush. Yes, I remembered a brush. We walked up to the doors and the photographer opened them and let us in.
The photographer was a member of the church I have known just a little bit for several years. I think I helped teach his son in junior high Sunday school. He’s a very kind and quiet man and we followed him down the hall to the nursery where he had set up for the pictures.
Once we got situated in the room, me on a stool to Marty’s right, the photographer’s lights primed and ready and the photographer straight ahead focusing on us, I straightened my tie, smoothed Marty’s jacket and whispered in her ear, “What’s the picture smile word? You remember?”
Of course she remembered. Now, Marty doesn’t have a whisper voice anymore; everything she says is at a conversational level. She blurts out, “Diarrhea, ” I laugh, Marty laughs, the photographer stops, starts, focuses and says, “Well, not cheese, but…..diarrhea.”
We all smiled, the lights flashed, he looked at his camera and lines up to take another picture.
“Diarrhea.” There were more broad spontaneous pure smiles walking on the edge of real laughter.
He took a couple more pictures was satisfied with his work and we were done. It all took less than five minutes and we were rolling down the hall from the nursery back to the front door and the van. It was quick, painless and hopefully fruitful.
As we drove home that afternoon I thought, "That's just not normal."
I couldn’t help but wonder if that nice quiet man was standing in the church nursery in front of some stalwart church members and pausing right before the shutter opens saying, “Diarrhea.”