I was clueless. My dad wanted to take me to his barber on my sixteenth birthday. I was petrified of what the end result would look like!
I came of age in the early seventies, and grew up with my mom, two sisters, two dogs and an ever-changing number of cats. All but one life form in our house was male, plus me. However, our male dog bonded with my mom rather than the only other male in the house. Oh well.
My mom was rather progressive and liked my hair long while my dad was a bit more old-fashioned (WWII veteran, but not over-the-top). The oddity about his request was simple…I never went to the barber with my dad since we didn’t live together and he let me take care of my haircuts and clothing choices.
I protested to my mom that dad’s request was strange and that I was a candidate for a buzz. She assured me that he simply wanted to be more involved in my life which scared me at the time. Sure, I wanted to spend time with my father, but not at his barber’s shop!
Because I couldn’t get my mom to help me out of the situation, and I couldn’t give my dad a good reason not to go with him, I acquiesced. From that moment until I sat in the barber’s chair a week later, I fretted about the outcome. Worry never helps, though. I even discussed this with my best friend, but he was no help. Rather, he thought the whole thing was funny. That’s what good friends do…they laugh at stuff that’s funny to them, but menacing to you and me. Interesting how time changes our perspective about the humor in such experiences.
The moment arrived. Dad and I walked into his local barber’s shop-a throwback from the 1940s. I sat down with men three times my age as I watched the stealthy barber practice his trade. Before I was ready, he called me to his chair. I was surprised when he asked me what type of haircut I wanted. I assumed my father told him to whack the bushy pile of hair off my scalp, but he hadn’t. I was relieved, but still skeptical.
Then the most bizarre moment occurred. After being leaned back in the hydraulic chair, the barber began to lather my face with shaving cream! I barely had peach fuzz so I knew I didn’t need a shave. But, a shave with a straight razor is what I got, plus a pretty good haircut, too. I looked at my dad, and he just smiled. We didn’t really talk about the shave. He just paid the bill and we walked out of that shop side-by-side, father and son sharing a moment that probably meant more to dad than to me (at least at that moment).
Actually, I was aware of what my father had done for me, but it still took time for the impact to really sink in. To be honest, I didn’t think of my dad as being the type to create a sentimental experience. He was a wonderful man, and a good father, but not one to get too intimate with his children. A lot of men were like that in his generation; loving, but a bit formal.
It is rather amazing that his “gift” has had such an impact on my impression of my father. You see, what he did was give me a ‘rite of passage’ so-to-speak, from a teenager into early adulthood. This was my father’s way of saying, “Your growing up, son, and I know it. In fact, I want to be a part of this transition from child to man”. What he said to me the most, without speaking a word, was this… I love you. Period.
I miss my dad. He died in 1984. My children barely knew him. Fortunately, my wife remembers him well. What really counts is that I knew him, and the love that he had for me. What a tremendous truth to know and experience. So many don’t have this pleasure. I never take it for granted.
Make a memory. Happy New Year.