We shaved together this morning—my grandfather, my father, and I—smiling at one another in the mirror of memory. I dragged the razor through the foam, up under my chin; then looked down to rinse away three days’ stubble.
“You missed a spot.”
“Thanks, Smart Ass.”
“Don’t sass your daddy, boy.”
“Yessir,” I said, and looked up at the gunmetal blue sparkle of eyes eight years younger than the deep brown of my own.
“He’s done well, Dad,” my father interposed.
“Yes, you all did a good job.”
And there were my sons standing behind me.
“Can I try?” asked my younger grandson. He and his older brother stood at my side in the mirror.
“When you’re ready, Son,” his great-grandfather counseled. “Your time will come. Be patient. Go help your little sister get ready for school now.”
I lifted the razor up under my right ear, and my father, still almost twenty years my senior for a while, tilted his head to the side a bit, and I scraped the whiskers and lather down the side of his face. His hair, the thick black shock from his mother, was his usual silver flattop of the last twenty years. I rinsed the blade and, looking up, saw again my own receding hair line, slowly graying just like his father’s had. Robbed of the time, he didn’t lose it all or see it go completely gray. I’ll see if I can take us there.
My once daily ritual, now only a couple of days a week, is this sometimes unnerving meeting of the clan, the generations I’ve known. Even my great-grandfather visits now and then…the same face morphed a bit over the last one hundred years or more. Sometimes I see the future chins of my grandsons reflected there, covered in soap and grown to manhood, smiling at the gathering in the mirror.
Off to the side, my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mother, wife, and granddaughter each offer a smile at the job accomplished and, turning to the door, remind me to “clean up after yourself.”
The work goes on; the line goes on. I am glad I have seen it.