Some Things Are Uncanny

November 24, 2015


Above: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch of Dick lying in bed. (Some text obscured for privacy.) Handmade 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch square Nideggen journal. Click on the image to view an enlargement, and read more about it below.

I haven’t been able to get out to the zoo lately to sketch. That means I have to sketch Dick. He’s very patient. He puts up with the constant requests to “sit still for a few minutes.” He’s even gracious about it, given that none of the sketches capture his eyebrows! But I think we would both prefer it if I were sketching puffins.

Though, come to think of it, the puffins at Como have “eyebrows” too.

Sometimes I don’t go to bed at the same time as Dick does. I stand in the door way and chat with him for a few minutes. That’s when it struck me—the uncanny resemblance of Dick with his dad. I left the doorway, got my journal, and returned to make this sketch. It reminded me completely of his dad, during one of his stays in short term care after a hospital visit. 

(Seriously, check out that link, it's what pushed me to write this post.)

This isn’t the first time the resemblance has been noted.

I noted it immediately the first time I met Dick’s dad. In fact, anyone who meets CR and Dick, either together or serially, is struck by the resemblance. I use the word “clone” frequently. Out of CR’s three children, only Dick resembles CR physically and mentally. To see them work together over an engineering problem was to see two brains working as one mind. They would lose track of time and sit for hours. I miss many things about CR as his health has deteriorated, but for Dick this loss must be so much greater, not just of a parent, but of an intellectual partner.

For my part it’s difficult to watch this preview of where Dick is headed. I spend time with CR and see the little movements of the head or hand that remind me of Dick. Even the pauses in speech and small facial tics that have been hard-wired into Dick.

Recently, because of his increased frailty I stopped taking CR out for haircuts. I’d watch him try to climb into the barber’s chair, unable to see well enough (because of macular degeneration) where the footrest was or where the seat was, or to counterbalance as the chair swung around, away from his force. I knew we were seconds away from a fall and a broken hip.

I’ve cut Dick’s hair since the 1980s. I simply got tired of looking at his butchered neck when he returned from the barber’s. I don’t have any training in hair cutting, but I did spend a lot of time in the beauty parlors waiting for my mother. I’m an observant sort. Happily Dick has always had curly hair which is the easiest to cut—it springs back into place, hiding minor inconsistencies. But mostly Dick’s hair is simple to cut and shape. At least it was once I gave up trying to do what he requested (“long on the top, and short on the sides,” or was that the other way around? I could never remember…) and just cut it the way I knew it should be cut.

Cutting hair is sort of like sculpting out of stone. You have a block and it tells you what it wants to be, and then you work to make that something emerge. Anyone who has seen Dick during the first week after I cut his hair knows that I’m pretty good at this. After the first couple weeks it starts to get long enough that his total lack of a “hair” plan gives him a decidedly disheveled look that suits the scientific stereotype. How he appears to the world is about 1,000,000 on the list of things Dick thinks about—OK, let’s be honest, it doesn’t even make the list. I just bring this up to point out that after I do my job I don’t have any control…

Anyway, because I’m good at cutting Dick’s hair we decided recently it would be best if I started cutting CR’s hair too. This eliminated the possibility of a fall from one area of life at least.

At first I was a little concerned. Yes, the last few times I’d taken CR to the master barber I’d watched everything she did, watched every move, every angle of attack, knowing that this day would come. Still I was worried about the finely spun, silky, floppy nature of CR’s hair. (It’s not stiff and compromised by pool chemicals like Dick’s.)

But I went boldly forward, remembering first to pay no attention to what he asked for and cut it the way I thought it wanted to emerge. Despite the limp nature of the hair (and the typical thinning that age brought—though CR has an incredibly full head of hair), it all fell into place as planned. If you see CR in the days after a cut you’ll find yourself remarking how good it looks.

After that, well, he might not swim, but like his son, he’s not exactly close friends with his comb. Some stereotypes are true.

I’ve learned something else too, through cutting CR’s hair. I can see that Dick’s hair is also getting finer. By cutting CR’s hair I’m actually practicing for the future.

Note: Let’s be absolutely clear here—I think true haircutting mastery is an art form. I do not have those skills. I have good eye-hand coordination and a long history of “making stuff.” And an even longer history of observing “stuff.” Happily I have enough skill to step into a dangerous situation and diminish that danger.

Wonder why I also put this post in the “Why Draw?” category? I think drawing not only helps us observe, but it creates a record of those observations. While I’ve always known I’m living with a clone, it’s rather fun to see the evidence mount up, over time, in my journal. So get busy sketching.

    • suzala
    • November 25, 2015

    I am totally getting this. Thank you.

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