I saw a ghost. No really! It was early in the morning. The world was just becoming light. I was on my way from letting the dogs out. As we walked through the dining room, I glanced in the mirror, and there was my grandfather. I stopped in my tracks. He left this Earth decades ago. Stunned, I raised my hand and waved. He waved right with me.
“Grandpa?” I questioned. And mockingly, he mouthed the words back to me as I spoke. Then the horror of what was happening hit me. That was me in the mirror, and I was becoming my Grandpa! Some people become their mothers or fathers, but overachieving Steve was becoming his GRANDFATHER.
I ran to the bathroom and turned the light on. I got as close to the mirror as I could. Yes, yes, yes it was happening; I cried with despair. There was hair growing out of my nose just like his did. There was hair growing out of my ears just like his did. The bags under my eyes looked like they were packed for a trip around the world just like his did! I quickly grabbed a razor, lathered up, and mowed my face. I looked in the mirror once again. Now I looked like my grandfather after he stuck his face in a weed whacker! I shaved too fast!
I headed up to my 19-year-old son’s room. We’re the same size, and on occasion, he raids my closet. Now, as he slept, I would plunder his. I was certain the real me was hanging on a hanger. I pulled on jeans with fitted legs so tight my feet tingled. But I got them on! I squeezed into the slim cut shirt that was more fitted than my skin these days. I looked in the mirror. I was different, and I felt that way, from the bottoms of my tingling feet to my still bleeding face. I laughed to myself, and that’s when I heard it. I heard my grandfather’s low, velvety chuckle. It was the little laugh that carried him along the river of his life. It made the ordinary special. It was music for those of us that loved him.
My wife came around the corner and stared at me. “Are you going to a high school dance? What are you doing?” She asked.
“At this moment? Trying to feel my feet and breathe.” She laughed, and I did too. It was that velvety sort of chuckle from my Grandpa. I went back upstairs and put on my “Dad jeans.”
It is hard to escape the family ghosts that haunt photo albums, shoeboxes crammed with pictures or the discovered photos in old books. Look closely, and you’ll see your eyes, maybe your smile and body shape. You see in those old photos people you barely remember inhabiting things you thought were exclusively yours. I don’t believe you can escape those haunting family genes. You are who you are some good and some … well, some we’ll … just blame on Uncle Bill.
Oh I have tried to reverse the clock and escape the inevitable. When my hair began to thin, I bought shampoo that was supposed to make my hair appear as though it was thicker. I think it was phycological, and my hair just thought it was thicker. Then I tried the comb-over. Which meant I had to tease my hair and blow-dry it. When I looked in the mirror, I reminded myself of an aging country-western star trying to hold on to the music and cover the bald spot. Then my hair went into the toilet seat mode. It wrapped around my head in a shape resembling a toilet seat. That’s when I flushed it all and shaved my head. About then, I found my great-grandfather’s photo. Our hairlines were identical, and so was our smile.
According to those that have a good view, I inherited the Williams’ — how do I say this delicately — bottom, or lack of one. I always thought I had plenty back there. It was comfortable to sit on and, with the help of a belt, held up my pants. But according to all those who are in the know, the ghost of the Williams’ derrière haunts my backside. The Williams are known for their no-butt physique. As a result, my pants are a bit roomy back there, something that annoys my wife to no end.
I was getting ready to go on a fancy trip when she looked me over and said, “You must get jeans that fit.” She shoved me out the door and in the direction of an upscale shopping area. There, just like she said, was a store that specialized in denim. Who would have thought? I walked into the store and the sound of pulsing music. Boom daboom boom. I looked around. Pictures of half naked men and women adorned the walls. Rail-thin manikins modeled the jeans. All the clerks were staring at me. They were children, babies. A young man asked, “May I help you?” “Yes,” I said. “I need a pair of jeans.” He almost laughed. “He needs jeans.” He shared with the others in the store. They went back to what they were doing. On cue, a beautiful 30-something lady came from the back and claimed me. “You’re mine. Let me help you. But first, let’s get you a cappuccino.” She winked. I don’t like cappuccino, but if she had suggested a cold glass of hemlock at that moment, I would have taken it. She made small talk. She laughed at my jokes. As I tried on jeans and modeled each pair for her, she clapped. In the end, I bought two pairs of jeans. I returned home with the “boom daboom boom” still ringing in my ears. My wife grabbed the bag and inspected my purchase. “Oh, these are nice. Fancy.” She said. Then the receipt fluttered to the floor. She picked it up. She screamed. “Four hundred dollars? You spent $400 on two pairs of jeans? Are you crazy?” I nodded. “Yes,” I said. “It runs in the family.” “Boom daboom boom!” I drank the hemlock and returned the jeans.
STEVE SCEARCY, a Missouri Southern State University graduate and former area resident, is a humor columnist.