Monday, October 25, 2010

The Face in the Mirror


John Ormond, 23 (Dad)


I had a profound conversation with my Father a long time ago.  The sentiment he expressed with a wistful sadness resonated deep within me. Our conversation had taken a philosophic turn about life and he said,
“You know Ann, when I look in the mirror I don’t know the old man face looking back at me.”

With a sigh he continued, “And when I realize the old man face is me, I am shocked because the face I expect to see is 23. Inside my face is 23."

I looked into his eyes and was surprised because for a split second I caught a glimpse my Father's 23 year old inner self.

I hadn’t reached the stage in my life where I did not recognize the face in the mirror nor had I experienced shock at the reflection looking back at me. But I understood the sentiment he was trying to convey.  It seemed a truth to me. Once I heard it my being knew it. I was deeply moved as he struggled to reconcile his inner self image with the outer appearance time had dealt him. My father was about the age I am now when we had this conversation.

The reason this is on my mind, well I recently looked into the mirror and guess what, I gasped at the old lady face looking back at me. I had to look deeply into her eyes before I saw myself.  In my mind’s eye I am  the 30 year old woman my father confided his struggle in that day. 

I began wondering why the reflection I expected to see was my 30 year old self. Was it because at this time in my life, I had my beautiful children, full of life and vibrant around me?  Was it because I lived in my dream house and when I closed the front door against the world each night I felt safe and contented? Was it because this was the decade of my life when all the planets seemed to align. I was young, healthy, with a wonderful husband, four beautiful, healthy children and a life filled with possibilities. This led me to speculate about my father’s age of contentment and endless possibilities.  Was it 23?

Dad & me at 30


 At times I grapple with age, but I don’t give it over much thought. Except of course on those occasions  I don’t recognize the face in the mirror looking back at me. When it does happen though, that moment, that split second of not recognizing self is not quite as shocking or distressing as it might have been, because my Father forewarned me.  He had prepared me

Ever since that conversation when I look at an elderly man or woman, I immediately wonder what face is in their mind’s eye. Sometimes I cringe when the elderly are patronized, because I know in their mind's eye they are not the feeble bodies, gnarled hands and worn faces the world sees. They are not that face in mirror. And if you look closely…very closely and deeply into their eyes you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of their inner self.

When you look in the mirror what face do you expect to see?

29 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Oh Ann!! Look at your handsome dad!! And look at you all lovely at 30! Wow!! These are lovely pics, thanks for sharing them here!

And this is such a lovely piece too. I feel that you were very very close to your dad and understood him so well!! That's really rare - well I think so anyway! It's just lovely!

I look in the mirror and I'm glad I;m not that gawky fat shy and child I used to be. I'd never ever want to be that age again! LOL!!

I think we as a society should do more to treasure our elderly - they have experiences and lives beyond our wildest dreams!!

Take care
x

Joanna St. James said...

I still expect to see the me I was when i was 23, I was skinny and people thot I was not even 18, now they see me with a kid in tow and dont even ask for my ID :(
Dont worry am working on loving the new me, its a WIP

fairyhedgehog said...

That feeling of shock at the sight of the face in the mirror is a familiar one!

KarenG said...

This was a beautiful post. And I'm so glad you included the pictures. Your dad looks so handsome and vibrant. You are beautiful at any age. Personally, I like to look in the mirror without my glasses, then I'm in soft focus and look about 20 years younger.

Christine said...

I enjoyed this post very much, Ann and thank you for sharing your photos.

When I look in the mirror I expect to see someone much younger, but what I see is someone who appears to have turned into her own mother.

I too hate the way that elderly people are sometimes patronised and spoken to as if they are children.

Len said...

Lovely photos, Ann. This story touched my heart because the truth is I have not seen my father for more than a year now because of our distance. At the same time, it reminded me of a conversation with him a long time ago when I asked, 'Do you feel old, Dad?' and he replied to me, 'No. You will never feel old. You will only look old but inside, you still think you're 18.' Nice blog post, Ann. Love it.

Liza said...

I remember my father saying, "No matter how old you get, you still feel the same inside." I think expect to be about 30 too, but I'm well beyond that. It's frightening to think that with luck, someday we'll look back at the pictures of what we look like today and think, "Wow...so young!"

Susan Fields said...

What a beautiful post! I still see the face in the mirror that I expect, though the gray hairs and the wrinkles are not a welcome addition. :(

Lydia Kang said...

I think I will feel the same way. I feel much younger than my age (and probably act it too). I have a feeling I won't go easily into that good night...

Rayna M. Iyer said...

What a fantastic post, Ann. So true- all of us see ourselves at a particular age, even if we are much older, or younger.

Lovely photographs too.

Agnes said...

Ann I love this post. And the photos.

I am not sure the mirror is my friend. Sometimes I like what I see, sometimes I don't. It is what it is, right?

Theresa Milstein said...

We do change and it's hard to reconcile the face that more or less stayed with us so long with the new face we start to inhabit.

This was a touching piece. What a close conversation to have with your father, often we discuss more superficial things with our parents. I think it's good your father prepared you for your future life.

Thanks for sharing the piece and the pictures.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, it's so interesting, isn't it? What age each of us is, deep within ourself. I would swear my husband has been seeing someone geriatric since he was a teen. Me? I think I'm like your dad, perpetually 23.

I am sometimes shocked looking in the mirror, at the wrinkles, gray hair... so this definitely rang true...

Val B said...

In conversation with my father recently,he saw himself in a photo and his reaction was a surprised "oh" - don't like that photo.I had to look twice to make sure it was me. Mmmmm well I suppose the camera doesn't lie". The man is 91!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vanity they name is Dad!

Talli Roland said...

What a handsome father! I love the photo of you together.

Quite honestly, I don't look in the mirror much these days (both metaphorically and literally!). I feel comfortable with myself, generally.

Eibhlin said...

Yes, the mirror can be quite the leveller. If I must look at my reflection nowadays, I remove my specs and stand well back from the "demon on the wall" and I find it really works...wrinkles have magically disappeared!!!:))

Karen said...

I tend to look at myself before I put my contact lenses in - much kinder!

My mum often says something similar though - in her mind she's still about 45. I must ask her sometime if that year was particularly significant to her.

Al said...

Wow. I have had this very same conversation with my Mum. Only she always says 18.
I always wonder where all the grey hair comes from when I sit and watch the mirror as I get a haircut.

Jackee said...

Ann! This is such a great insight. Being 33, I haven't experienced this yet, but I catch a glimpse of it when I talk to teens. In my mind, I'm not much older than they are and then I hear what they think of me, how they address me and it shocks me. I think of myself as 22, the same age I got married and when I was healthiest. Weird. You might have something about how we see ourselves at the age we were happiest. :o)

Thanks for sharing, my friend!

Jen Daiker said...

I loved the photos!!! They allow us to really see what you're all about! I love it!! :) I think I need to go searching for some fun pictures to show off!

I suppose when I look in the mirror I want to see a confident writer, someone willing to take on the world. Not the actual physical part of me.

Catherine said...

Ann what a lovely post and such a connection with your dad! I know how you mean when you look in the mirror - mind you you look well in reality as much as in the photos - but I struggle to see myself as others must see me as I feel so young at heart - then I remember I'm a granny and shouldn't be buying clothes in New Look and other places where my teen daughter shops! Anyway - I do feel my age with aches and pains at times and yet I don't see someone in their 50s in the mirror as I don't feel that old! So I'm a firm believer in being as young as you feel at heart. It was only when I had a student for mentoring that I felt how old I must look to her as I realised she was the same age as my son and also I was the same age as her mother! I looked on her as a peer and colleague (as she was - it was a long-term placement) and we laughed at the same things and shared interests - then I realised we saw each other as equals - adults. So ageism doesn't have to be an issue or somthing I'll get defensive about yet - I'll just advocate against any overt ageism I see out there!Happy Halllowe'en!
Catherine

Rosalind Adam said...

I know exactly what you mean. I find myself peering in the mirror to look for the girl that I expect to be there. My reflection in a shop window is the worst. Seeing a lady that looks vaguely like my mother wandering through the shopping centre always catches me unawares. It makes me feel just a little sad too.

Melissa Sarno said...

Hi Ann! I'm 'haunting' your blog from Theresa's blog. I definitely understand these feelings. I just turned thirty and for some reason I struggled with it. I know it's not what most consider 'old' but 30 years is a long time! I think I will always see myself as a 'kid'. A lot of my friends have children and it totally freaked me out, I thought, "But we're all just kids! We can't have kids!"

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My mother told me the very same thing. Some years back when my home burned, and I received second and third degree burns on my face and hands, trying to save my dog and cat, I found out that feeling for myself.

The next day I staggered to my hospital room mirror, splashed some cold water on my face, and glanced up : I saw a face of some Chinese monster : no hair, puffy, inflamed face, and eyes all squinted and slanted. Quite a shock.

Thanks to the personal aid of my best friend, Sandra, I am no uglier than I ever was. But I know how fragile the human body is.

Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. It meant the world to me.

The Words Crafter said...

Hey Ann, my name is Becky and I'm over here from Theresa's blog haunt. I loved the story about your father and the face in the mirror. I'm at that point, myself. It's funny-I have an exact wrinkle that my mom had, in the same place!

The Golden Eagle said...

Wonderful photos, Ann! And I loved reading the story about looking into a mirror and expecting to see someone else.

I'm here from Theresa's blog as part of the Halloween Haunting! :)

Judy Mintz said...

First, a thank you to Theresa M. for introducing us through her "blog haunting."

I don't know how old you are, but looking at your current profile picture, I'd have to say you look pretty wonderful. Perhaps I'll try to visualize myself as you at your age. Seriously, in my mind I'm not stuck at a particular age. Frankly, I think I was looking my best in my early 40s, but I am at the stage when I look in the mirror and wonder what my husband still sees in this woman.

Haddock said...

Nice post.
Like they say, you are as old as you think you are.

Patricia Stoltey said...

This wonderful post brought tears to my eyes, Ann. Your father said it so well.

I'm 68 with gray hair, and I still think I should see a brown-haired 40-year-old chick in the mirror.

My husband says he just tries not to look in the mirror at all.