In the 3 months since I left my father standing quietly in the visual roar of a locomotive-like chain of brownstones, “life” has been happening, frequently. Nonetheless, understanding the arc of his evolving identity–from swank hipster to suspendered grandpa—has remained a cherished obsession, which reasserts itself every time I inspect a mid-century tie (did he ever own one like this? Would he have found it too flashy? Too conservative?), or handle a pair of vintage cufflinks I can imagine him wearing to his job as a Coca Cola bottling plant manager, or to a popular restaurant with my mother.Likewise, the 2 dozen or so black and white photos I’ve got which chart the early stages of that evolution have continued to haunt my daydreams, with their phantasmagoric residue clinging primarily to his direct heir in the here and now, a.k.a my thirteen-year-old son. (I am particularly susceptible to their eerie beauty today, since it is my father’s yartzheit: the anniversary of his death, as calculated on the Jewish calendar).
You see, just as his grandfather was, back in the day, my son is darkhaired, slender, taciturn, affectionate, and acutely sensitive. Looking at this photo of my father and his young bride with a group of friends, for instance, I can’t help but (after sighing longingly at the fabulous painted eagle on his buddy’s flight jacket, of course) see my son’s profile in his, and recognize they are both cursed with the same oxymoronic personality–both born partiers who happen to be very shy.