The woman in the photo is my great aunt Rose and it was taken this past Sunday on the occasion of her 100th birthday--a momentous occasion, which my family and I were honored to attend.
I hadn't seen my great aunt in over a year. The last time, she was noticeably frail but still walking and still basically herself. When I first approached my family's back porch, where she was sitting surrounded by loved ones who were all there to celebrate with her, I wasn't sure it even was her. Maybe it was another older women attending the party? But as I got closer, I knew. I was a bit shocked at first because she now sits in a wheel chair and she is totally blind.
Aunt Rose is my father's aunt and my grandfather's sister. They're both gone, but I'll always remember how close my grandfather was to her, and how much my father loved her. I was basically hardwired to love her, but regardless of my programing, as I grew up and got to know my great aunt, I got to love her on my own for the the kind, patient, creative and remarkable woman she is.
At one point during the day, I sat down with my Aunt Rose and talked with her. I was so happy and relieved to find she is still relatively sharp, especially for 100-years old. She clearly knew who I was and we talked about my father and grandfather and about how much she misses them. She mentioned the extreme heat of the day (92 degrees, still less degrees than she has years) and about how in her day there were no air conditions and people slept on their fire escapes for relief.
I was upset when I arrived at the party, but my great aunt Rose made me feel better. After we talked for a bit, I told her I wanted to take a beautiful photo of her. I came prepared with my "real" camera, not just the iPhone I usually use at family events these days. I snapped about 40 frames quickly and I chose the above image to show because it looked and felt the most like her to me. Other frames were caught moments, but in this one she is aware of me and the camera. She was being a subject and thanked me after I was finished.
I like to think I caught something "real" in the photo of a beloved family member on her 100th birthday.