OMG … Who’s That Face in the Mirror?
BY STEVE WINSTON
reprinted from my blog in www.fiftyisthenewfifty.com
It’s my father’s, that’s who! (Who did you expect?)
As boys, one of our worst nightmares was that we would turn into our fathers. Now – 9 years after his death – I see my father looking back at me every time I look in the mirror.
In fact, I recently e-mailed a photo of myself to my dad’s second wife (my step-mother), with a note asking if I looked like him.
“Oh, my God!” the return e-mail said. “You’re right … it’s amazing!”
There weren’t a lot of parallels between my father’s life and mine. His mother died giving birth to him in 1923. And his father lost interest in being a father after that. So my dad pretty much grew up on the streets of the Bronx, often passed around from relative to relative. He joined the Army after Pearl Harbor. The 9th Infantry Division, in which he served, landed at Normandy and then fought its way across France and Belgium, and into Germany. It was there, in the Battle of the Huertgen Forest, on October 6, 1944, that my dad was wounded. He was shipped home in a half-body cast that stretched from his shoulders to his belly.
My childhood was different. My dad became a successful business executive, and I grew up in a beautiful house on several acres of land in the woods. I had the privilege of hitchhiking through Europe (several times) in my early 20s. And my dad did give me a precious gift … the recognition that it was probably more important to develop my skills as a writer than to rush off into a field that wouldn’t satisfy my soul.
He gave me several other gifts, as well. A deep and abiding love for nature (although I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled that this love of nature developed into a zest for mountain-climbing!). A passionate love of music. And a desire to not just accept the world as it is, but to protest against the injustices and inequities.
Still, we were very different people. He was extroverted and quick to express his opinion, whether to a friend or a stranger. Perhaps because of his tough childhood, it was important to him to be liked. On the other hand, I could care less if strangers like me or not. And, while I’m extroverted with my friends, I’m quieter in crowds, preferring to listen rather than speak. He was a great salesman, and eventually, a great leader of other salesmen. I’m more introspective, and more moody. Hell, I’m a writer.
He was buried with military honors, which was fitting, since World War II was very much the seminal event in his life. Even though we didn’t always get along, I do miss him. I respect him for his courageous 3-1/2 year battle with cancer. And I miss kissing his bald head.
At this stage of my life, I find myself thinking about him more often. Especially when I look in the mirror every morning. Every morning of my life, I’m reminded of who he was. And who I am.