Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spitting Image

One day recently during the Momalom 5 for 10 challenge, I was sitting on my bed looking through old pictures of my dad. Daughter was sitting beside me.

I knew what I was looking for: one of the iconic images of my dad. The one in a trench coat and a hat, so unusual for a man who never wore a hat in Chicago, even on twenty below zero temperature days.

It had already been an emotional week of writing. What is it about being given writing triggers and then reading so many entries from so many people and connecting your thoughts to theirs? And I had come fresh from reading an entry from Momalom's Mom who had written about the glory of being a grandmother, about what it feels like to look at a grandchild's features and see the features of your own beloved parents there.

But then it hit me as I was looking at this picture of my father from postwar Germany, from the time period when he lived for six years in a Displaced Persons camp; it hit me that I had seen him much more recently than 1975. I felt confused for a moment, like I was seeing him for the first time. I looked at the young picture of him again, kind of looking at it from every angle.

Then I realized. Of course I had seen that face very recently. As a matter of fact, that face was sitting there beside me on the bed at that exact moment. My daughter. How could I not have noticed it?

I felt a little breathless. Stunned at both my blindness and my lack of vision, at the idea that I couldn't see something right in front of me, so close to me. My daughter's been here for ten years with my own father's features and I never noticed it.

I know it's just genetics, but to me it feels like something bigger, a lot bigger. Something eternal. My daughter, born in 1999, my dad, dead in 1975, and yet, completely connected.

So even though in some way I'll always be standing distressed and disbelieving in the foyer of our Scottsdale home on a miserable day in March 1975 hearing the news that my dad had died, here was proof that not all of him had. Here was proof that there was something so much bigger going on that the fifteen-year-old me could safely leave the foyer now.
Have you ever been surprised by whom your kids resemble, like I was? Do your kids look like anyone unexpected? Do you only look to yourself and your mate for lookalikes, not farther back?


  1. I used to think that both girls looked completely unlike me, but if you can get past the obvious (as in, they have brown skin, eyes and hair) and look more at the subtleties (shape of the eyes, pout of the lips) there are flashes of me.

    The resemblance to your father is uncanny. What a gift.

  2. I have my grandfather's red hair. But my cousin really, really looks like our grandfather. Sadly, my teen has my nose... but a smaller version... luckily for him:)

  3. It's always shocking to me when I catch a quick glimpse of one of my parents, or even grandparents in my children. Such a gift.

  4. I think your words sum it up, it is life eternal, when you see reflected back at you all the generations of your family that you know and love in your child. How wonderful that you now feel that connection to your father through your daughter.

    Everyone always has said that my daughter is the image of her father. She looked nothing like me as a baby but now she is losing her baby features I increasingly see a whole mixture in her of features, mannerisms and expressions. I see her paternal Grandfather and Grandmother but also my family and as TKW says, I see flashes of me.

  5. Linda,

    This really resonated with me. My father died in 2002. A month after his passing, I found out I was pregnant with Andrew. Andrew is the spitting image of my father. His mannerisms, his way of sitting, EXACTLY like him. Right down to his love of sweets, especially chocolate!

    It is uncanny to think that two individuals who have never met could be so similar.

    What a blessing to have a reminder of someone who we still miss!

  6. When you said it and I looked, it's very like looking at a reflection.
    very beautiful.
    Yes, everyone thinks my oldest looks like me because she has my coloring, but she has my husbands facial features except for the eyes. My little ones face is just like mine...except for the coloring and the eyes. the face shape and lips and nose...all mine.
    As well as her personality.
    My oldest holds herself like my husband. It isn't obvious to people who see her everyday, but an old colleague of Tim's saw her and said "My Goodness, she is the spitting image of tim. I don't know why. But it felt very sweet.

  7. This is lovely. And so understandable. My elder son, at various points, has strongly resembled my father who passed away several years before I married.

    I went searching for a picture of my father at 17, which I knew I had somewhere, when my son was 17. I showed my son - who of course never knew his grandfather except through stories from me. He was stunned at the resemblance. And it was bittersweet, and wonderful.

    My first born bears his grandfather's name, in part. Somehow even sweeter.

  8. Oh, Linda, you have me tearing up here; this is beautiful. I see my dad in my son all the time. My son, who supposedly looks just like my ex, yet has my dadis crooked grin and long face, and his exact same different shaped earlobes.
    Genetics is such a cool thing, the way it can trigger our hearts. Just think, long after we're gone, we'll still be there in the faces (and earlobes) of kids we can't even imagine yet...

  9. What a lovely post and a stunning realization. I have to take a better look at a photo of my dad, who died when I was 17, and compare him with my two children. I'll let you know what I find although I never made a connection of any resemblance to my father.

    Your beautiful daughter looks so much like her grandfather, it is incredible!

  10. You are absolutely right. She does look just like him. There is some video footage that I sent to Sharon on one of my HERE'S TO YOU THURSDAYS. Reading this post makes me think you will appreciate it. Here is the link:

  11. I've been trying all my life to NOT look like my dad. Although I love our Irish heritage, and was once told by an Irish priest, "You have the map of Ireland on your face," I denied for years that I looked like my dad. I didn't want to be like him. But now the years have mellowed my anger at him, and now I love the fact I look a lot like Dad and so do my kids. Thanks for sharing (and showing) your tribute to your dad.

  12. Wow Linda. What a beautiful resemblance.

  13. When my grandmother died last year, and we were looking at photographs of her when she was younger, I was shocked how much of her features where reflected in her grandchildren. Some photos really were uncanny.

  14. My father died four years ago when my Enzo was just a toddler. He loved little Enzo - would sit and push him on the baby swing when he was tired from his chemo - or... would just hold him and let him drink his bottle while he watched tv - like it comforted him. I was adopted, so... I don't look like my parents - and did not think my kids would either. One day, my Dad gave me a black and white picture of himself as a baby and asked me, "who does this look like?" And it was Enzo! Right down to the long, prominent nose, deep set eyes, pointy chin, bright and intense gaze. My dad was a slavic / Irish mix - I am Italian and so is my hubby (and, therefore, Enzo), but... he and Enzo look so much alike. I love these pictures that you've shared; your Dad's face - down to how he holds his chin and sets his gaze - reflected on your daughter. Uncanny :-).

  15. I look just like my Dad and Will looks just like me and Dad.

    I lost my Dad on May 31,1977! And he is still with us. Forever.

    It is so strange them in your children. I don't know why? Perhaps we don't see features of those we love, we just love them. And then an photo captures your attention.

    It is stunning your beautiful daughter and your handsome Dad.

  16. Linda, this is beautiful. What a timely post. Just this morning, I was staring at my daughter. I was trying to determine who she looks like. For the most part, she looks like my husband, but people see the red hair and immediately say she looks like me. My son, actually looks exactly like me as a child, but he has the coloring of my husband, so he is always told he looks like his daddy. But Zoe's nose. I couldn't place it this morning. I've known Noah has my nose from the beginning and that Zoe does NOT have my nose. I've studied my husband's baby photos and she doesn't have his either. I was only thinking of the two of us... and this morning it hit me that she simply has someone else's nose. I can't make it out yet, but as she gets older, I imagine it will be revealed. How beautiful to think of it being a connection to someone we've lost.

  17. TKW, it is funny how caught up people get on pigment issues. One of my great-nieces is African American but she looks just like my niece. Do people see it? Most of the time, no!

  18. Karen, I love that red hair gene. We just had family in town who included a tiny red-headed second cousin of mine. So cute. And funny how you're dismayed to pass on your nose!

  19. Corinne, That's it really. I just expect them to look like me or my husband, but generations back? It kind of takes my breath away!

    Aging Mommy, So true that their baby faces might look very different from how they look as they get older!

  20. Maria, Wow! That is so amazing and touching. It is heartbreaking when a grandfather never meets their grandchild but to have your oldest come out with so many similarities! Amazing!

    Chris, you reminded me of this horrible thing about passing on my miserable personality. Well, it's either my obstinacy or my father's that's been passed on to my daughter - or how about both of ours just piled up in one ten-year-old kid? :)

  21. BLW, so cool and how lovely to have that double connection, the appearance and the name. No such connection for my daughter. She was named for my mother's sister and my maternal grandmother.

  22. Oh my, Maureen, I hadn't even thought about my ancestors yet! I just hope no one gets my chin. My son is mad enough at me for it...

    Ellen, it was a stunning realization. Stunning in that I had never seen it before!

  23. Robin, thanks for that. I do appreciate it!

    Michelle, in my family, truly none of us ever wanted to look like our dad, but mostly because of what he looked like later, like before he died. By then he was kind of ruddy and he was ill-tempered and a bit angry all the time. So I can relate to not wanting to look like your father! But now that I know my beautiful daughter looks like him it kind of casts him in a different light, you know? :)

  24. Sativa, I know. I have to make myself not marvel at it when I'm gazing too long now...

    Charlotte, What a comforting thought!

    Sherri, That's an amazing story about Enzo and your dad! I know none of that stuff makes sense but how many times have I seen adopted kids look like their parents? And I don't think it's just me wanting to find a resemblance - there are resemblances! It's really awfully cool.

  25. Terry, we must have been about the same age when we lost our dads because I think I'm a little older than you. Another similarity! And, like you, I agree, mine has never stopped being with me. It's different but real all the same.

    Jennifer, I love that: "she has someone else's nose." We're like mini family trees, pieces of us from our ancestors.

  26. Wow, this is beautiful. The continuity, the family tree, the generations linked - I love that.

    In my grandma's bedroom, she has five sets of framed prints - each of her kids at the same age, about 18 months. I was always amazed at how my dad and my little brother looked exactly the same. Exactly. Kind of crazy.

  27. Thanks, Linda, so beautiful and I'm glad that you found the one with the hat - so dapper! There's an awful lot of you in his face, too... :)

  28. Once again, a beautiful post.

    As a mom via biology and adoption, I understand what you are saying. My oldest looks a lot like me, but has a bunch of my DH's DNA in there, too. A beautiful mix.

    She did, during the first few months of her life, look EXACTLY like my DH! I have video of her side by side with his baby picture...scary alike! Even to the eyebrows!

    My twins, however, do not resemble my DH or me-they are Irish! That being said, my DD and DD2 have an uncanny resemblence to each other! Everyone tells us that-even people who do not know my twins are adopted! It's one of the reasons I believe they were meant to be ours.

    My son has my DH's mannerisms down to a T. It is amazing that he will "look" like his Daddy while making those expressions...which are the same ones his grandpa (DH's dad) makes!

    And my son will pass this down to his children.

  29. I love this post! The photo of your dad is so wonderful and your daughter resembles him so much. I get a little thrill when I see how much my kids look like the Goldens, especially my youngest. The fact that they all favor their paternal grandfather whom I never had the pleasure to meet is important to me. I like it that he's still here.

  30. So well written. This is indeed something more than genetics, it may be a cliche, but lives do continue through our children and they do carry on that hard to describe something. Spirits maybe. Legacy even. It's nice to see your loved ones again in the children.