Thursday, April 25, 2013
The other day, I went over to visit Dad and sit with him. As usual, after lunch, he was dozing in his recliner chair so I sat on the bed and studied his face. I thought, as I had before, how young he looked in comparison to his age - how smooth and relatively unwrinkled his skin is and how his hair is still thick, if almost white. The skin on his face is slack, however, I think because the facial muscles don't work as well anymore - it's what can give him a flat affect. I always think, though, that the fact that he started to lose his mind when he was young- along with worries, stress, and the awareness of aging - is what has contributed to his youthful appearance.
As I watched him sleep, idly going over his features, my eyes caught on his chin and I found myself really looking at it. He has a big, lean, strong-looking face, and his chin had always contributed to that - grounding the rest of his features. I had never really studied it that closely before but as I looked at it, I realized it reminded me of another chin - my own! I have always thought my chin was a little odd - it has a cleft in it, like Kirk Douglas, or Michael Jackson after he decided he wanted to look like Kirk Douglas. I read once that the cleft is a minor malformation of the chin bone, or something, and relatively rare - on the right face, like that of Kirk Douglas, it looks craggy and manly. On my face it looks okay but it's definitely not cute or petite, and I always kind of wondered where it came from. I realized I was looking at my chin on Dad's face.
I look a lot like my Mother, and my Mother's mother. From the shape of my face, to the shape of my eyes, even, I think, to the shape of my teeth. When I look at pictures from my first wedding when I was twenty-four, I see my Grandmother staring out at me - we share the same soft jaw line and roundish eyes. It's a little odd. My face has changed a bit in the intervening twenty years so that it's not quite so obvious - now I think I look like myself, with touches of my Mom's family and elements that don't seem to really belong to anyone but me.
For the longest time, the only thing I thought I had inherited from my Father was his coloring - he and I both have blue-gray eyes and ash-blond hair. I certainly didn't get his height since I'm 5'5 and he was over six feet in his prime! Suffice it to say that I have never seen him looking out at me when I look at a picture of myself - but there it was, my chin! As I looked at his chin, I realized that I felt happy that we shared it - that there was something definitive about me that came from him. I felt a sense of kinship and connection that I sometimes lose since he and I don't really interact the way that fathers and daughters usually do. It was a nice feeling, that genetic relationship and the experience of being part of a line that stretches back for generations of the same height, eye and hair color, and even shape of chin.