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The middle-aged man in the mirror April 29, 2012

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.
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I’m not sure I would have recognized him if I didn’t already know it was me. The thinning head of hair and the deepening lines surrounding the eyes are what threw me. I mean, yes, I’m well acquainted with ‘that’ me, just not as it’s reflected in ‘that’ mirror.

My siblings and I grew up in this home in LeRoy. So did our Dad. Soon a new family will begin creating memories here.

I arrive at the house about 10 minutes early. My brother Chris, along with my sister-in-law Gina, agreed to meet me there—our childhood home—to lay down some signatures and address one other matter. That house, which has been part of the Stella family for around 100 years, is soon to become somebody else’s home.

Since our Dad died last August, the family has stayed busy addressing his estate. The house is the one remaining piece, and soon a young family with two kids will take ownership. While the closing is likely still a couple of months away, my wish is to take a few minutes now to just walk around and reminisce on my own.

I find myself compelled to head upstairs, where as children my siblings and I began and concluded each day. Describing the space as ‘quirky’ is putting it mildly. Before reaching steps 11 and 12, normal-sized adults need to duck their heads to transition from the staircase and turn left toward the second-floor bedrooms. I have often joked that nobody in my family grew past 5’ 9” because the bedroom ceilings are no higher than 5’10”.

The ability of that space to trigger memories remains constant, despite the fact that few remnants of my childhood remain. But as I enter my bedroom—the one to which I retreated as a high school and college student—I’m struck by one thing that has so obviously changed. It’s me!

The mirror is the same, but the reflection looks so different from the one that stared back at me 25 or 30 years ago. I remember, as a young man, positioning myself directly in front of it as a matter of routine—poised to debate with myself whatever issue might have arisen that day. Even as a self-absorbed teenager, my instinct was generally to do what I knew to be ‘right’. Help myself, of course, but do no harm to others. Occasionally, as I weighed my options, that reflection would betray me. My motives, I’d realize, were not always pure. Corrective actions would sometimes be required. The mirror seemed able to set me right.

So I wonder, if the boy then could see the reflection of today, how would he react?

I suspect the first response might be, “What the hell happened to your hair?”  But hopefully, upon further consideration, he might say, “Hang in there, ol’ man, you’re still doing what’s right.”

And I hope he’d be proud.

– – –

SPECIAL RECOGNITION: I want to offer my thanks to my sister Pattie. After relaying this experience to her during a phone call, she said, “I feel a blog coming on!” Sadly, until that moment, I hadn’t been feeling it. Her feedback made me realize I did have a story to share. My hope, as it is always, is that somehow these observations are relayed in a way that resonate in the lives of my readers.

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Comments»

1. Kathy - April 29, 2012

Now I know what you meant about the sentimental journey. This is such a nice story and believe me you still look pretty good. Remember…Stella’s are known for keeping their youthful good looks (I hope).

2. Lynn Wesley - April 29, 2012

Paul, it was beautifully said. I absolutely related to everything you experienced, said and thought. I did the same thing before we sold our house in January. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The reflection may change, but the memories never will. Lynn

3. Pattie Stella - April 29, 2012

I will always remember this house the way it was growing up. I have not seen it since the repairs have been made and the furniture has been moved.
I remember it the way it was the last time I sat with Dad in the Living Room with Theo on his lap. So much has changed in such a short time. Including how we all look.

4. Debbie Ferris - April 29, 2012

Great story Paul, that home has many good memories for all of you I’m sure. I even have some memories from time I spent there as a young girl. Taking that last look around must have been very emotional but, you will always have the memories. Oh one more thing, Kathy is right you still look pretty good! Debbie

5. Liz - August 8, 2012

Paul,
As someone going through the same thing, this was a beautiful reminder of what we what really matters in life. A house may be sold,but no one can ever buy your memories.
Cheers to childhood memories and the families that made them!
Liz 🙂


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