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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – There’s a story written by Oscar Wilde called “The Picture of Dorian Gray” where a young man is so beautiful and conceited that he has his portrait painted and then, falling in love with his own likeness, wishes that the image in the painting would age instead of his actual face. That’s exactly what happens in the plot and the effects of all his subsequent sins and debauchery over the years are displayed in the picture while his face remains unchanged.
A fanciful tale to be sure, but every time I look at old photographs of my wife and myself I’m reminded of that story and how the malicious ravages if time have taken their toll. Not that we’ve committed any terrible sins as Dorian Gray had done, but rather the influences of time, weather, and gravity have eroded our good looks, taken the bloom from our cheeks and replaced it with wrinkles and sagging jowls.
Looking at the way we appeared 50 or so years ago, I can’t help wondering where those young kids went because I don’t remember doing anything harmful to cause such a drastic degeneration. I’d like to think that the photos are the way we still are and all the mirrors are warped, but unfortunately the aches and pains in my body won’t allow me to fool myself.
Photographs of the kids are fun to view from time to time as a reminder of happy occasions and how our children and grandchildren have grown and matured, and pictures of our parents can also be nostalgic, recalling how they appeared when still with us, but when it comes to looking at the 3x5s of us as we were in our youth, those glossies are nothing but downright rude.
Not only do they insult us by mutely pointing out how much we’ve aged, but often are additionally disrespectful by showing us wearing the same clothes that we still possess. Shirts that I think are merely one or two years old appear in photographs from seven or eight years in the past. How can that be? I’m up to date and with it, or so I like to imagine.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had an enjoyable life together and are very fortunate to have been able to share so many good experiences while aging and deteriorating at the same rate, understanding and comforting each other in health as well as minor illnesses and ailments. But if I had my druthers I’d rather have chosen the same road that Dorian Gray opted for, letting our pictures grow old and decrepit while we remained young. How sweet it would be for us to live to 100 and at our funerals have someone look into our coffins and remark that it’s a shame we died so young.
Even better, perhaps when the reaper would come to gather us in he’d say that we can’t be the ones he’s looking for since we’re just not old enough, although our clothes of course might give us away.