(second row, fifth column)
Doppelganger: The ghostly counterpart of a living person. From the German words doppel, meaning double, and ganger, meaning goer.
I saw him only one time and that was over 45 years ago. He was tall with really long hair. He had a mustache, an Arizona tan, looked about 18, and was as skinny as a rail. In other words, he looked a lot like me. As a matter of fact, he looked exactly like me. I was sitting in my seat at the United Artists Six Movie Theater in Scottsdale, Arizona seven rows away from myself. I don’t know if he saw me, but for several minutes I sat staring at my double. He was standing with a group of friends as they laughed and clowned around in the aisle. To say it was unnerving would be an understatement. Although I saw myself in the mirror every day, this was like looking into a mirror and seeing me move around while I knew I was standing perfectly still.
Over the years I’ve often thought about that day. I wonder if he only looked like me under certain circumstances and if I saw him outside under the bright Arizona sunlight any resemblance would be gone. I also wonder what he looks like today. Would I do the same double take if we ran into each other again?
Most men who reach middle age will one day look into the mirror and say to themselves, “I have become my father.” Rarely is that said in a positive way. In a culture where youth is king, nobody wants to admit to growing older. Still, besides the sobering look at one’s own mortality, is this a bad thing? Each new generation becomes part of a link that extends back to when our ancestor primates first stood erect. Our faces and bodies are simply the glue that binds families together and reminds us that we are more than a shared name. I may have a lot of years behind me, but I wouldn’t trade all those growth experiences for anything.
(Dad somewhere in his 30s)
As a parent, I have thought of my children as little mirrors. However, those mirrors aren’t limited simply to reflecting physical form. While there is a certainly a family resemblance between my sons and me, I see bits and pieces of my personality staring back at me. Sometimes I like what I see. Sometimes I do not. It’s often surprising what our children choose to take from us. That is certainly the case when it comes to my parents and me. I took on my father’s strong work ethic, but I also inherited quite a few unsavory traits from both Mom and Dad. Both the good and the bad are reflected back at me in that mirror.
After being married for 40 years, it is impossible not to notice how Linda and I have absorbed parts of each other’s personas. We too have become mirrors to each other. Again, like my children, the things you see looking back at you are not always the things you wanted to see. For the most part, though, I would like to think that we both make an effort to borrow only the best from each other. Those other things become the conflicts and struggles that help us grow as individuals and as a couple.
The thing that struck me most while looking at my double was that he, and subsequently I, looked awful with all that long hair. I didn’t even bother staying for the movie, but instead left the theater and walked straight to the nearest hair stylist. I sat down in the chair, told her what just happened, and gave permission to do whatever she wanted to do to my hair. It’s amazing what a person will do after coming face-to-face with himself. It would do me a lot of good if that happened more often.