They say women marry men who remind them of their fathers, but I didn’t want to. I envisioned a different partnership with my husband than the one my mother had with my father. I picked someone who behaved in the polar opposite of my dad in every way. Physically and personality-wise, these two men had nothing in common. At least not with husband number one.
Enter husband number two, whom I describe with a string of phrases: 2nd’s time’s a charm; artist who brought color to my black-and-white world; did not believe in fairytales or romantic comedy kind of love before I was living it; even cynical Russian girls ultimately want a knight in shining armor; inexplicably lucky I found him. Husband number two loves me like a country song and my heart breaks at the thought of how grateful we both feel to have found each other.
I have That husband. The one who serenaded me with three songs at our wedding because one would never be enough. He’s the husband who looks at me in such a way I’m forced to abandon his gaze to seek out my reflection to understand what has his eyes so captured. (I’m always surprised to find it’s just me.) He’s the husband who needs to touch me whenever I come near him because he can’t tolerate the few inches between us. He’s the husband who makes lunch for our daughter and includes a custom drawing and poem with it each day. He’s the man who watches me take a shower as if he has a front row seat to the greatest meteor show on earth even after being together 11 years.
A few years into the relationship said husband showed me his first actor’s headshot. In the black and white photo, he was fresh out of college, handsome with his deep pensive eyes looking right at me. Something seemed so familiar. Had he shown this to me before? No. I kept coming back to the image; what about it plagued me? I recognized those eyes and jaw from somewhere.
I should interject by saying I look very much like my dad, more and more as the years tick by, and my wrinkles catch up with his. I should also interject my husband thinks he and I look resemble one another. (I disagree.)
Where had I seen this exact expression looking at me – maybe a hundred times?
Wait. What was happening? The picture of my dad emerged from the Russian photo archives of my mind. In the vintage-colored photo, my 20-year-old father had a serious look with a closed-mouth smile, hiding his trademark gap between his front teeth. His lips looked almost pouty (thanks for those genes, dad) and his chin had a cleft. I hadn’t realized my dad had a cleft chin for the first 30 years of my life, but my boyfriend’s adoration of his cleft chin had me notice them on everyone, including my dad.
OK, so they both had the lips, a once-upon-a-time Beatles haircut, and a cleft chin. (Also a short neck.) But nothing else. Personality-wise, they are totally different! I kept telling myself.
“You’re nothing like my dad, right?” I confirm with my husband.
“Well, we have some similarities.”
“None!” I instantly blurt out. Then I pause for a second to consider this notion. “What similarities?”
“He’s a bit of a clown too,” my husband suggests. “He’s also extremely charming.”
“No! You’re definitely not like him as a husband. He cheated on my mom and married someone 30 years younger than him.”
“You put it that way and wonder why he doesn’t read your blog?”
“He encourages me to write anything I want, assuring me he wouldn’t take offense.”
“Sounds just like me,” he says.