My father was 44 years old when I was born. He was 27 years old when my oldest sister, the eldest arrived. My childhood memories and my siblings recollections differ enormously. I have always valued the significance of each person’s unique perceptions of daily experiences, as a shaper of their memories. So sometimes it is hard to sort what is real and what has been embellished by imagination, values and biases. Looking out the window at this very moment; all I see is an empty, green, grassy yard. Upon closer look it’s not so empty. My memory of this morning will be skewed by where I choose to direct my focus.
So I wasn’t totally surprised when I decided to explore a memory and see how it measured against my siblings memory. I grew up with the story that everyone thought my father, in his youth, looked like the old time movie star Tyrone Power.
I asked my sister who is 7 years older than me what story she remembered. She said she always heard people thought he looked like Robert Taylor. My brother, who is the next oldest, said it was Paul Muni. My oldest brother named another actor John Hodiak, and my oldest sister was sure it was George Raft with a hat.
I wonder if the memory of who he looked like was connected to how we related to him. I know he was different with me than he was with my siblings. Maybe he was a tough guy like George Raft, when my oldest sister was young. He retired two years after I graduated from high school. So he wasn’t focused on his job anymore. Being the youngest, I may have imaged him to be the gentle leading man. We took our first plane ride together to visit Ukraine in 1974. It was a return trip for him. It was a scary adventure into Soviet culture for me.
I guess it doesn’t matter all that much which one of is right about who he looked like. He’s been gone over 25 years now, and I still think about him. He will always be my Daddy.