The Familiar Face of a Stranger

Recently I’ve written a lot about faces. I think that’s mostly coincidence, because when I wrote the first “game face” post I hadn’t yet seen the photos of my cousin Rusty sent to me by my aunt Toni.

Rusty passed away recently at the age of 66. He lived in South Carolina, and I hadn’t seen him in more than 50 years. In fact, I only ever met him once, when my parents took care of him for a few days back in about 1954. I was about eight then, so Rusty would have been about 12. He didn’t have much use for me or for my friends and spent most of his time alone. The only other thing I remember about his visit was that he wrote his name and the date on a rafter in our unfinished attic. When my father and I finished the attic, we sheetrocked over what Rusty had written. The likelihood is that his name is still hidden there.

Through the years, I never thought about Rusty much. He grew into manhood, and so did I. He got married, and so did I. But our lives were as separate as those of total strangers. I couldn’t have told you the name of his wife or kids, if he had kids. I don’t know what he did for work. I don’t even know the cause of his death.

What strikes me now are the photos of him taken near the end of his life. I never saw him as an adult, but in the photos of him, I see my own face. I also see my father, my uncle Alfred, my cousin Dennis. There is a family look that, as an only child, I never recognized while I was growing up. I only see it now when I look at my own 60-plus face and compare it with photos of my father and my uncle at about the same age.

Rusty’s face belongs in that same lineup. He was a stranger to me, and I recognized him immediately.

2 Replies to “The Familiar Face of a Stranger”

  1. This reminds me of when my cousin came to visit me after many years absence and the first thing he said to me was, “You look just like our grandmother.” I guess the genes are embedded and family resemblances grow stronger with age.

  2. AS I grow older, I am finding all sorts of “stuff” (like your own discovery in family faces) that I would never have noticed even 5 years ago.

    So many things in my life have taken a different….timbre? Am I growing wise?

    Hmmm, maybe. But my family would say it a little differently: more wise-assed.


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