Around 10 a.m., Barbara Gower, a 99-year-old woman from Dayton, Ohio, descends the steps of the home she has lived in since 1963.

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I Know Your Love By the Way You Look At Me

Eleanor Moseman | Ohio, United States

Moments of the daily life of a 99-year-old woman residing in Dayton, Ohio. Barbara has lived in her home since 1963 and her life has become limited because of the passing of time. These photographs show Barbara's daily routines, emphasizing her independence and strength. However, there are moments of sadness and isolation.

The typical morning begins with a slow descent from the staircase around 9 a.m. Barbara has a simple breakfast. Somedays, she enters her dining room and goes through her mail.

Her doctor's visit for macular degeneration, a hereditary disease, brought her to near blindness. Although Barbara couldn't see, she insisted she felt loved by how her granddaughter looked at her.

There are more intimate moments of Barbara's weekly shower, when her youngest daughter, who also lives in the home, gets in to help her stay safe.

Barbara passed away while the photographer was out of the country. Eleanor plans to continue the story in her grandmother's absence. This photo essay developed the photographer's understanding of familial love and the passing of time.

The photographic essay "I Know Your Love From the Way You Look at Me" is a personal photo essay I began in October 2023. It's the daily life of a fiery and independent 99-year-old woman.

My grandmother's words inspired this story. I would hear her tell me or others, "Nellie, you and I have a special relationship. I know your love from the way you look at me." Even though she was nearly blind due to macular degeneration, my grandmother could feel the love and respect for her.

She had raised her four children and one grandchild and took great care of a few great-grandchildren, too. Since I had lived out of state or out of the country for most of my life, I had a different relationship with her. I viewed her less as a caretaker and a "gramma" and more as a wise and independent woman. I was interested in her time working in New Mexico on the Manhattan Project and riding a horse into the mountains. She reminded me to utilize the beauty and power of the English language for as long as I can remember. Her stressing the importance of language pulled my interest in learning foreign languages.

This story began too late, as I was in India last winter and received text messages just a month after these photos that Barbara Gower, my grandmother, was in hospice and wouldn't be returning home. I've said countless goodbyes to her over the decades, and this one moment, I truly believed, "I'll see you again soon."

The photo essay feels incomplete, and I will continue to capture images in my grandmother's absence to finish the story or carry it on with my mother. I will also explore how the family unit changes without the matriarch and only her legacy.

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