Face Value

Roberto Gonzalez

My dad would have turned 100 this year. Sadly, on his birthday in August, I likely won’t be able to make it to the small town of Mountain City, Tennessee, to stand in front of his final resting place and pay my respects. After all, these days, real-life deadlines always seem to trump real life.

But I plan to honor my father in another way—by posting a photograph of him on Facebook. It will be my favorite image of him, taken when he was in his early 20s living in the mountains of western North Carolina, the debonair guy standing in front of his hot 1930s-era Ford with his whole life ahead of him. Admirably, within 20 years—after serving in World War II—he would choose to dedicate that life to his fellow man as a Southern Baptist preacher, ministering to lost souls, the needy and the suffering, until his death at age 90.

Which leads me to this: There is much I don’t care for on Facebook—aimless debates, braggarts, wannabe comedians trying to one-up the previous comment. Yet, my eyes always—always—stop when someone posts a photo referencing the past, in particular one that honors a parent, a sibling, a friend. Because those roots, after all, are the essence of our being. And if I’m your Facebook friend, you’re giving me a look at the people who helped shape you. In this age of ideological and sociological upheaval, those glimpses into the past just seem, well, comforting.  

So, I encourage you—particularly with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up—to dig into those photos of your loved ones and post a favorite. The words that accompany it don’t have to be elaborate. Last Mother’s Day, I posted a photo of me at 14 months, asleep on my mom’s shoulder. I tried to think of something profound to say, but I finally settled on six simple words: “Thanks, Mom, for holding me close.’’

A heartfelt tribute for sure. And yet, when I think of posting that photo of my dad, something eats at me: Will it be enough? Has social media made it all too easy? Is there something more I should do?

I look at the calendar. Around August 5, his 100th birthday, I’ll have a bit of a break before getting started on our next issue. A plane ticket to Charlotte, N.C., costs less than $300. Then it’s about a 2-hour rental-car drive to the cemetery.

I’m thinking I will go. And if I do, I will approach a hilltop where Facebook friends, likes and comments don’t exist. I will snap no photos to post. I will text no one.
If I go, it will just be me.


It’s time once again for our annual Best of Orlando reader poll. Go to orlandomagazine.com to vote for your favorites in dozens of categories, from hair salons to wine stores, TV news teams to art galleries. Just for voting, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free dinner at a top local restaurant.

Also, don’t miss the opening reception for our 12th annual Paint the Town art exhibit. It’s from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 20 at the Gallery at Avalon Island. Nearly three dozen works from local artists are in the show, which runs through April 11.


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