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Location: Midwest, United States

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

On Thumbs and Lips



If I recall correctly, the first time the lighting struck was when my Dad and I were driving to Wisconsin and I studied intently his right hand on the steering wheel. I was young, became dumbstruck, actually marveled, that our thumbs were nearly identical. Well, not exactly IDENTICAL...not then...no. Not quite then. Back then, decades ago before he died, my Father’s thumbnails were far more striated. Just like my thumbnails appear today...decades later.

There was no mistaking the fact that our thumbs were nearly identical in form and appearance. Granted, my Dad’s fingers were hewed somewhat rougher. He was a manual laborer after all. I, a coddled student. Still. There was symmetry. There was the length, girth, shape and color of the nail, the creases, the pigmentation, the essence of a thumb shared by Father and Son.

I drew (and continue to draw) great pleasure in that.

Years later, we sat together in a garret with my long-lost grandfather. Someone said something funny and all three - Grandfather, Father and Son, convulsed in laughter. It struck me then, like a thunderclap, that we three laughed identically.

Fast forward a decade plus. I sift through albums of photographs of my Father...now gone. I contemplate his visage as a younger man. A man kinda my age, and I realize: we have identical lips!

And so it came to be that I’ve come to know that my Father passed on his lips and thumbs to me.

When nights are darkest...when all is hopelessly lost...I contemplate my thumbs, stare into a tarnished mirror. I reflect upon the fact that I sprang from someone beautiful.

And I greet the dawn.

* * *

9 Comments:

Blogger PattiKen said...

I love this. When my father died, I stood looking into his casket at the wake, a little disoriented. I didn't really recognize the person there. The personality, after all, was erased from his face. And then I noticed his hands, my hands, and it all became real.

Is this picture of you?

Wed Mar 09, 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

The photograph is of my Father's lips...

Wed Mar 09, 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger Lilith said...

Nice to see your smile Jonas.

Thu Mar 10, 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Ahhhh, now you understand the immeasurable power of my seeing my birth mother for the first time, of having identical teeth, slight droop in our right eye, the way our cowlicks swirl, nuances of speech. These markers that say "I am from him/her", DNA passing from dust to birth along generational faults...it means something. I told myself it didn't, until it was finally mine. Then I told myself I lied.

Thu Mar 10, 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I have my mother's feet... and her legs, not the shapely pins my dad passed on to my sisters... I got the bird legs. ;-) But I look like my dad's sister... high Viking cheekbones and wide smile.

It's wonderful to see the tracings our parents leave on/in us as we gaze at our reflections. They are always with us, aren't they? And it's lovely to see your smiling face, Jonas. You so rarely grace your pages with visuals of you.

Thu Mar 10, 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Given the comments, once can only conclude that genetics is powerful stuff.

The emotional life of someone who was adopted is way beyond my realm of understanding. There's a complexity there, a poignancy I've never experienced. That's serious business.

Funny thing: My upper teeth are nearly identical to my Father's. My lower teeth are replicas of my Mother's. I find that both odd and comforting.

Sat Mar 12, 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

Interesting comment about the emotional life of the adopted. My mother died first, but Dad was still there, so I was safe. When my father died, I had this horrible feeling of suddenly being exposed, with nothing (no one?) between me and the Reaper. I was "out there" all by myself.

Do you suppose someone who is adopted feels exposed right from the get-go?

Sat Mar 12, 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

"I reflect upon the fact that I sprang from someone beautiful"

That gave me goosebumps and tears. So beautiful.

Sat Mar 12, 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I know what you mean, Patti, having been orphaned myself. But adoption? As I stated earlier, I can't wrap my mind around that experience. I leave it to the adoptees to teach me what it meant to them (and I know that the experience/reality varied greatly for each).

I've said it often, Anna: I've been blessed in too many ways to count. The challenge is to never lose sight of that fact.

Sun Mar 13, 10:01:00 PM  

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