I need to deviate from the Surrogate post just to talk about Lucas tonight. Anyone who knows me well knows how important this little man is and for those who don’t, I will give a brief explanation of the little man who melted my heart.
As all stories, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end. I hope to provide an inspirational beginning, a middle full of drool and smiles but I surely hope that I don’t need to discuss the end anytime soon. The beginning actually happened before I had met Lucas, it began when I got into an accident at an amusement park while I was on vacation and it changed my life as I knew it then and as I know it now as well as brought me screaming back to my parents house. The accident was something I generally don’t talk about so many have no clue that I was even hurt. The summer of 2003, I hit my head so hard I lost the sight in my shutter eye! Any photographer knows this is something that generally ruins your career. I stopped shooting completely for about a year because I just couldn’t get over the shock, pain and disgust. I thought I would never be in a studio again.
After numerous doctor appointments, it was evident that IF I ever wanted to shoot again I would need to train my left eye to shoot the camera. Since I am completely right eye dominant, I knew this was going to be a daunting task. I didn’t know if I would be able to ever be strong enough to will myself through taking off-center blurry images just to see if it would work. I spent months in my bedroom at my parents house contemplating this and never once came up with a clear answer. I just knew that I was broken and I didn’t know if I could fix myself. I rarely left their house because I thought people would judge me for being 26 years old and living at my parents house because the loads of money I made in New Jersey had run out. I was able to live there for a number of months and pay a ridiculously high-priced lawyer to get the state to release jurisdiction of Jayde back to North Dakota but after that, the money was dwindling fast. Doctor appointment after doctor appointment to figure out how to fix my eye didn’t help when I no longer had health insurance.
There was one person that came into my dads bar in July 2003 that made one comment which changed things for me. He said “Geez! Smile once in a while it really can’t be that bad.” That one comment was a turning point for me. I wanted to work to train myself to shoot again no matter how off centered the images could be. I was going to fight even harder.
I worked and worked and finally obtained a studio position at a local studio. This was so difficult because I had been working only for myself in New Jersey; the studio was mine, what I wanted went. Now I needed to run any ideas by another photographer and the owner of the company. I know the title is “All About Lucas,” but I needed to provide a bit of a back story prior to getting to the good stuff.
On Tuesday December 14, 2004 my life changed again. This was the day I first met Lucas and I knew what I wanted to do with the abilities I had acquired. Lucas came into the studio with his mom Teresa and older brother Alex. The first images I took of Alex were priceless, even though he was in tears a majority of the session. He cried and cried and I just laughed. I didn’t laugh because I thought it was funny, I laughed because I loved what I was doing. I was meant to be the button pusher on this specific day. I have a fondness for Alex that is also unlike many other sessions I’ve shot, but I’ll be honest with you, Lucas is by far my favorite! I know it’s wrong to pick a favorite child or a favorite session, but I really don’t care, I will say it on a daily basis, Lucas is my favorite!
The session of Lucas went similar to any other session with the exception of Teresa giving me a little extra information about Lucas. She let me know that he had neurological regression and he wasn’t on the same target level as other babies his age but the thing he could do was drool and smile. Two of my favorite things in babies. His eyes captured me and just held me as if to say “You’re welcome to come into my soul and learn from me. Really, it’s ok.” Who would have guessed that someone so small could have such a large impact on the rest of my life?
I was told that if people were added to a session, I needed to charge an additional session fee; I thought I needed to break the rules and get Teresa in a few of the images. From that day, I’ve been able to get Teresa into almost every session of Lucas because I thought it was important. Not because she ever uttered the words “can you take an image of me?” How many adults really want to have an image of them self anyway? I know I don’t.
Teresa and I didn’t talk much during that session and the boy’s father, Kevin, brought them to their next; so there was so much that I didn’t yet know that would be such a life changer for me. I thought I was doing so good too, I had retrained myself to shoot with an eye I’d never lined up behind a view finder, I had gotten out of my parents house and I was back in a studio again. Little did I know, I had not yet begun to do anything and the life changing aspects were still to come. Some good and some devastating. All I knew at that very moment, was I wanted to see Lucas again because there was something about him. I couldn’t quite place it but it was just something I needed in my life.
Every time I would shoot a session for Lucas, I would get the same incredible smiles and drool. His eyes would always have that “come on in and let me teach you a few things” and I would learn something from him every time I saw him. Shortly after this session in September of 2005, I learned he had a sister. Ariana was five years old and she too had an undiagnosed regressive neurological disease which was robbing her of her childhood. How was it that I never asked Teresa if she had any other children? I just assumed that since she had brought Alex and Lucas that she only had two boys. I’ve searched endlessly tonight for the CD with images of Ariana and I’m not able to locate the files. I’ve moved multiple times since I shot the images of her and just can’t seem to find that one missing CD. I will be sure to update this again once I do have those precious images of Teresa’s angel though.
There was a gap between sessions of Lucas because of the loss of Ariana. Something no parent should ever need to deal with. In that time, I had a lot of time to reflect. I had nearly a year-long pity party where I felt my life couldn’t get any worse. I know it sounds trivial in the grand scheme of things but it was so dramatic to have everything I had worked so hard for gone in the blink of an eye (I know bad pun). It was during these many months of reflection that I knew what I needed to do to fulfill my life. I needed to become a special needs photographer and hone my skills on what I can do to create history for these families that have much larger burdens than I could have ever handled.
Up next….part 2