My daughter, Krissy, is allowing me to take a self-portrait with her everyday. That's her present for my seventieth birthday. And it's a good one. She was my first photo subject and that project lasted eighteen years until she stood on the stoop, her last day of high school, and said, "No more photographs." She'd been enormously patient until then.
I never imagined reaching seventy. I've thought of death everyday for as long as I can remember. I imagine that is common for anyone whose mother died when she was a child. The possibility of death becomes too present. I think about death almost every time I get into the car. When I go away on a trip, I can't imagine returning from it. A trip to the doctor opens the potential for getting the news about what's in store for me.
Krissy says I never smile. I'm sure that's hard on her. In fact, I'm much less dour than my father was, though I never even thought about his rarely smiling. He had a marvelous, quiet sense of humor and would make almost unnoticeable word plays. When he did laugh, his eyes would tear, his body would shake, is face would turn red. He liked Bob and Ray and the Sid Caesar Show, Thurber's writing. But smiling wasn't essential. By the time he got very old, he looked like a jack-o-lantern when he did smile, his front teeth blackened by his determination to never darken the door of a dentist.
When Krissy was first brought into me after she was born, she was already alert. Even though I know that newborns don't actually see details, I could have sworn that she did, that she was saying, "Okay, I'm here, I want to get going." It was immediately obvious that she was an extrovert.