This photo isn't easy to share. Neither is the story that goes with it.
I had just climbed the highest point of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My parents and I were on a vacation visiting national parks across Utah and at the last minute we decided to check out the Grand Canyon. My dad had traveled there with his dad when he was younger and I thought it would be a nice moment for he and I to share. My dad's the one who taught me photography. His dad was also a photographer, and it kind of got passed down to me. My mom, who simply doesn't do heights, waited by the restaurant as my dad and I ventured along the trail to the rim.
When we got there, I climbed up this cliff, leaving my dad below with my camera and his (it was too sketchy to make the climb with my camera in hand). I had wanted this epic photo of me basically on top of the world. "Take a photo with my camera," I hollered at him. He looked at both cameras, confused. "It's the one around your neck," I said. He aimed my camera at me. I looked down and told him the lens cap was still on. "Why can't I see you?" he asked, just looking at the screen on the body of the camera. "You have to look through the viewfinder," I responded. "Okay, I have the perfect shot," he tried to convince himself. "You have the lens cap still on," I said. Tears were welling in my eyes. He didn't understand how to use a camera anymore. He could manage an easy digital one or his phone, but not a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) similar to what he taught me to use years ago, the one he gave me that he got when he served in Vietnam.
My dad took a photo of me. Luckily for me, it was from far away, because I couldn't stop the tears running down my face as I stood there. There, on top of the world, while my entire world was shifting below me. He was fading away right before my eyes. I climbed back down and we walked back to meet my mom at the restaurant (which is where she took this photo of us). The walk back to meet her was silent between my dad and I. We both knew something huge had just happened, but didn't want to acknowledge it with any words. Instead we kept moving, trying to enjoy the view.
This was only two years after my dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. It's been seven years. He's in the middle stage now, and doesn't really take any photos anymore. He goes on walks and listens to music. He's still the same human deep in there, but the person I grew up knowing, the man who taught me the art of photography, the fearless man who I used to go on epic hikes with, he's sitting back on the rim of the Grand Canyon with his own camera in hand, capturing moments of life and smiling.