Alex Harvey Cockroft, Jr., my dad, passed away in late August 2022. I haven’t written about his passing or mentioned it in social media at all: it’s a personal thing and I don’t air out my grief in public… assuming there’s any grief to air out.
In cleaning out his apartment and disposing of his things, I found two cameras loaded with half-shot rolls of film in them…. So. As a sort of homage or remembrance or memorial to the father I scarcely knew, or the dad I did, here are a few selections from those half-shot rolls.
Alex and I weren’t close. To refer to our relationship as “estranged” would be to ascribe more feeling to it than either of us had, I think. Still, as his only child, responsibility for end-of-life decisions and taking care of his meager property fell to me. Had he been in possession of his faculties at or near the end of his life—he suffered from “mild dementia,” which changed his personality in profound and disturbing ways—would he have chosen me as executor or power of attorney for healthcare? Allahu alim. He wasn’t, sadly, and according to the state of Texas, responsibility fell me and me alone.
The changes in his brain drove Alex to do some strange, sorta out of character (I guess) things that I won’t go into, but above are the last two film photographs he made from the house he shared with his ex-wife for nearly 30 years. He shot these with a Canon Owl that has a broken battery door, but otherwise works brilliantly and remains in my possession. I’m not sure when he made the photos, but surely some time before the Spring of 2019, when everything really changed for him.
After a few misadventures and some time couch surfing, he wound up at my uncle’s house. Along the way, he picked up another camera, a Canon SureShot Esprit, which I gave to Daniyal, my wife’s cousin’s son (our first cousin, once removed) who came to visit and is the only family member to show any interest whatsoever in film photography.
I hope Daniyal uses the Esprit more than Alex did.
At some point in his travels, Alex stopped by the Smithfield Historic Cemetery, where his Grandparents (left) and his parents (right) [my Great Grandparents and Grandparents], were laid to rest.
All praise and thanks be to God, I was able to find a plot for sale nearby, and Alex’s body now rests in a single unit about 25 feet away from our kinfolk.
I’m not one for premonitions or anything, and I have no real way of knowing when Alex visited the cemetery, but he made another maybe 10 pictures on the roll before the camera went into his storage shed, and it only emerged when my uncle and I cleaned out the shed about a month after Alex’s funeral. Anyway.
During his months at my uncle’s (his brother’s) house, Alex made a handful of pictures, mostly, I think, during a single, brief snowstorm, perhaps in February 2020 or so. He grabbed the Owl first and made the three below, plus a handful of pictures out of the open garage door and that I tried to stitch into a panorama and failed. You’ll have to use your imagination.
He dropped the Owl and picked up the Esprit to shoot my aunt and one of her dogs. Apologies to dear Aunt Gail… it’s not the most flattering photo.
They had dinner, what looks like a nice North Texas middle class meal for their generation, and then lit a fire.
After 6 or 8 months, my Aunt and Uncle couldn’t really handle him any more, and my dad moved to a nearby apartment complex for seniors. I think he was quite excited about it.
He looked excited and hopeful in his last Selfy, anyway, though when I look at it now I’m filled with sadness as I see that glimmer of dementia in him and know that he wasn’t himself at all.
And with that, I probably won’t mention Alex H. Cockroft, Jr. again on this blog. I long wished I could have a relationship with the guy, but neither one of us could ever make it happen, and now he’s gone. He’s been gone a year. I probably haven’t grieved properly, and I don’t think I know how. I should probably seek therapy. And if you made it this far, I’m sure you don’t want to read any of the garbage I wrote trying to let some of it go, so I deleted it wholesale and I’ll leave this post where it is.
I think I’m a better photographer than Alex was, but that’s another story for another day…