Clone, clone of my own…
When I explained to my friend that the guy he thought was me in one of the pictures was my dad, and the guy in another was my grandpa, he didn’t believe me. And when I wouldn’t change my story as he demanded again and again that I admit I was joking, he angrily stormed out of the house and refused to talk to me for several days, until my mom confirmed the story…
Part of the problem was that my parents had been divorced for a few years and both Dad and my paternal grandparents lived about 1200 miles away, so this friend had never met them. But the other part of the problem is that I really resemble my father a lot, and he resembles his father just as much.
I’ve met lots of guys who bear a resemblance to their fathers, but ours seems to be quite a bit more than the usual amount of resemblance. My cousin misidentified several pictures of my dad, for instance, as grandpa. Other relatives have had similar moments of confusion. Which is why I sometimes refer to us (along with some cousins) collectively as “the clones.”
I was reminded of this while I was searching through my archive of digitized family pictures looking for some of my maternal grandma to use in the posts about Grandma’s chili. A big piece of my archive is the collection of all of Grandma’s pictures which one of my cousins spent an enormous amount of time scanning after Grandma died and identifying as many people as she could.
In addition to a number of pictures of my parents from when they were dating, through their marriage, and so forth, Grandma had several of Dad’s school pictures. This might not seem unusual, until I remind you that this is my maternal Grandmother. It isn’t from his mother’s old photo albums, but from his ex-mother-in-law’s old albums.I had seen the pictures from my dad’s sophomore, junior, and senior years in high school before. (Quick aside: my parents were only 16 years old when they married, and I was born six days before my dad’s 18th birthday) but until my cousin sent me this disc of pictures, I had never seen any of my dad’s grade school pictures. One of the problems I always have with looking at these old pictures of either dad or grandpa is that I have trouble seeing more than a modest similarity between us. I always recognize them both, even though other people get them mixed up, such as those pictures where my cousin mistook dad for grandpa. Whereas the moment I saw them it was painfully obvious to me those were dad. Of the grade school pictures of me on the disc, this is the one that, to me, looks most like a picture of Dad. I thought, at first, that it was because this is the only one of all the school pictures where I’m not showing any teeth with my smile. None of the individual school pictures of Dad have teeth-bearing grins. They’re all that closed mouth smile. I’m not sure why that is. I started wearing glasses in second grade, but Dad didn’t start until middle school.
There are a few pictures where I notice the similarities, but it’s more often pictures of us together, from my mid-teens on. Even then, we’ve always had different hair and eye colors (though now that I’m starting to catch up with him on the grey, our hair won’t be so different for long).
I used to notice our resemblance most often in the mirror. Specifically I would sometimes catch a glimpse of myself, usually in my peripheral vision, in a mirror when I wasn’t expecting to. Part of my brain would send out an alert, “Look! There’s Dad!” and I would turn in surprise trying to figure out what he was doing here (we still live more that 1200 miles apart, while the metaphorical distance is more along the lines of billions of miles), only to find myself looking at my own reflection. It happened most often in my late teens and throughout my thirties, and started slacking off significantly after. It makes sense, because most of my memories of him are during his twenties and thirties. He was thirty-two when the divorce was final and we moved away.
I’ve also noticed the resemblance in turns of phrase or in certain attitudes. Something will provoke a particularly irritated response, and I’ll hear my dad’s voice coming out of my mouth, as it were. Often things that I’m a little bit ashamed to discover is my gut reaction to something.
I know that one of the reasons I have trouble seeing as much of a resemblance as some people do is because I’m so familiar with my face, Dad’s face, Grandpa’s face, et cetera, that the face-recognition portion of my brain has mapped out all of the ways that Dad’s face differs from Grandpa, and magnifies those differences whenever I see one or the other face. Conversely, our similarities are de-emphasised in my perception.
This phenomenon may also explain why members of various religious sects who insist they are very different from each other often appear indistinguishable to those of us outside either community. They’re too close to the situation to see things objectively. And sometimes we’re too far to see thing empathically.