Our Bittersweet Trip to Arkansas | Personal

March 23, 2013

I have been trying so hard to wait to get my film scans back before posting any pictures from our trip to Hot Springs, but I guess I’ll just have to save those for another post once I get them. We recently took a trip down to the state of my birth, Arkansas. Amanda had never seen Arkansas before, so I was truly excited to show her the state from which I came. We were going to visit my grandparents in Hot Springs, a smaller, turn-of-the-century resort town, known for it’s hot mineral springs. I have many happy memories of fun-filled weeks there with my grandparents every summer, and I couldn’t wait to show and tell Amanda about all of those memories. On our way down from Ohio, we paused in Cherokee Village in northern Arkansas to stop in and say hi to an Instagram photographer friend of ours, Clark Sanders.

It was so much fun getting to actually meet him in person after seeing his life through Instagram for so long. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? After hanging out and talking with Clark for a little while in his studio, and stopping for a quick bite to eat, we made the final leg of the drive down to Hot Springs, which is about an hour west of Little Rock (my hometown). It was dark as we finally drove into Hot Springs, but even without being able to see the scenery around us, there was a sense of familiarity as we pulled off the highway and drove toward my grandparents neighborhood. When we arrived, we were welcomed by the faint, warm glow of light, spilling out from my grandparents’ living room, complete with it’s giant stone fireplace. We half unpacked the car before deciding that it was too cold for that and that we could wait for morning to finish. We then sat in the living room describing our drive down to my grandmother and catching her up on what was new in our lives before falling into bed, excited to see my grandfather the following day.

My grandfather had been sick for awhile…esophageal cancer, pneumonia, dementia,  etc. He had been in a nursing home, working to build up his strength so that he could go back home, so the following day we went to visit him, as my grandmother did every day for lunch. She told us that with the dementia he had good days and he had days where he thought he was back in the Navy. We went into his room not quite sure whether he would remember us, but as soon as he saw us, he kind of perked up a little bit and asked how our trip had been so far. It was a pleasant surprise. We sat and talked for an hour or so until it was time for him to go have some lunch. As we left, we told him that we’d be back to see him tomorrow.

The following day, after going to church with my grandmother, we headed back to the nursing home to see Granddad. He wasn’t quite as alert as he was the previous day, but seemed in good spirits, and we decided to take the opportunity to get some pictures.

After a few quick shots, Granddad seemed a little tired, so we decided to let him rest while we went to explore Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs. Only a couple of the bathhouses are still in operation, but they are still beautiful.

We happened upon this bar along the main strip across from the bathhouses, how cool is that!

Is this girl gorgeous or what?!

The ol’ “use a park bench as a makeshift tripod” trick.

After walking back along the promenade that runs behind the bathhouses, we drove up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.

We even got a nice family to help take a picture of us together 🙂As our trip was coming to a close, we had planned to take an afternoon to go to Little Rock, stop by the house that I grew up in, and then go out to dinner with two more of our Instagram friends who also happen to be fantastic photographers (Christopher and Nancy Nolan), but our plans were quickly changed.

Monday morning, the day before we were to leave, my grandmother got a call saying that my grandfather was being taken to the ER. He had aspirated, and although they stabilized him, later that day he passed away. After leaving the hospital, we spent the rest of the day listening to stories about my grandparents’ life together. They married when my grandmother was nineteen, and she says it was as if they had been together her whole life. My heart ached for her, and still does, but it was wonderful to hear the stories she was telling. She talked about the ups and downs, of moving from Colorado to Arkansas, from Arkansas to Nevada, and then back to Arkansas. She talked about how in Arkansas, Granddad missed the wide open spaces that he had loved out west, where you could see for miles. But she also talked about his love of gardening, and how much he loved to help other people in whatever little way he could. Our trip had taken a sad turn, but I will always be grateful that we were able to make it down to see and visit him, and I will treasure those pictures that we took of him the day before he passed away. Be sure to make those closest to you feel loved today. Take full advantage and enjoy the life you have been given…TODAY.

comments +

  1. Liz

    March 24th, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I like the shot of the top of the brick building with the trees in the foreground and the hills in the back. Makes me want to climb that ladder.

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