The Other Half of Me

30 06 2012

I have my mom’s slight frame, her sister’s smile, and her great-grandma’s eyes.  My sister’s daughter looks like me when I was her age, and my brother’s daughter looks enough like me to be my daughter.

For all 49 years of my life I have seen myself as my mother’s daughter.  I’m not a prude – I know I wouldn’t be here without my dad.  It’s just that I’ve never identified with him or his side of the family.  We didn’t spend much time with them when I was younger, and I don’t resemble anyone on that side of my family tree.  And he and I didn’t have much time together; he died soon after my 16th birthday.

A recent conversation has redefined how I see myself.

I was sitting outside at dusk on a picnic table talking to friend who was asking questions about my photography background.  His questions reminded me that my dad was a newspaper photographer before I was born.  “I never made the connection until now that we both enjoyed taking pictures,” I wondered aloud as the sunset yielded to the first stars of the night.  “We never got to share our interest.  My dad died before I bought my first camera.”

That got me thinking.  Dad had also been a staff writer at the newspaper.  I vaguely remember him congratulating me when I won an essay contest in junior high, but we never really talked about liking to write.

And this week my mom added another surprise to my already churning thoughts.  She mentioned that Dad kept a detailed scrapbook of his published stories and photos.  My dad a scrapbooker, too!  Maybe I’m more than just my mother’s daughter.

I started making a mental list, tracing photography, writing, music, love of nature, playing practical jokes, long walks in the woods, the quest for a simple life, doing what’s right (not popular), back to my dad’s influence.  How did I not see that before?

Unconsciously, I defined myself through a filter that didn’t include an important half of who I am.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying getting to know my dad— and myself— through the interests we shared.  At every stage of life I have grieved not having him around.  Now I find myself wanting to ask him how he would have framed a shot.  And I would love to know if he would have made the jump from film to digital.  I wonder if he would have had a blog; or at least subscribed to mine.

The dawn is putting out the stars as I finish writing in the quiet of a summer morning.  Looking out the window at the rain, I am mourning that we missed each other, like the two ruts of a forest trail—both going in the same direction, but never meeting.   And yet in a sense, as I turn to focus a shot, there he is, smiling beside me.

I am my father’s daughter.

 

A grade school photo of my dad

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5 responses

10 06 2014
robstroud

What a wonderful blessing to come to this awareness.

Unlike the two of you being parted when you were so young… I’ve known the joy of my own daughter accompanying me to writers’ meetings. In fact, if we can get her family moved back nearby, I hope we resume that practice.

10 06 2014
cathyhowie

Thanks for the encouragement! I need to re-read this with Fathers’ Day right around the corner!

23 08 2015
Brenda Davis Harsham

I always thought I took after my dad’s family, red hair and all. Then one day, one of my mom’s relatives unguardedly said I looked just like my mother when he first saw me. It created a very awkward moment. Afterwards, I looked back at all her pictures looking for the resemblance. It’s harder to see from pictures, but eventually I found it. It’s harder to stay connected to a parent who’s departed. I also feel connected by doing things she liked to do — painting, writing and caring for my children.

23 08 2015
cathyhowie

Sweet thoughts, Brenda! And also very timely as I was just thinking about this post since my dad’s birthday was yesterday! Blessings!

23 08 2015
Brenda Davis Harsham

I light a candle on my mother’s birthday and tell her about her grandkids while the smoke rises. XOXO

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