26 January 2009

This isn't exactly covered in the Miss Manners books...

And charm school didn't prepare me, either.

My hairdresser is dying.  He has been battling cancer for a long time now, more than a couple of years.  All along, he's been battling the beast, not letting it get the best of him.  Surgeries, radiation, chemo, hair loss, all of it hasn't stopped him from working or doing anything else he wants to do.  But he's getting tired; I can tell.

He's been my hairdresser for about 10 years.  I've gone from mousy brown to blonde to a sort-of conglomeration of red, blonde, and a shade a few shades darker than my natural color, from long to super-short hair with him.  He came to my parent's house on my wedding day and made sure that the braids didn't slip away from my veil.  He's a part of the family, and not just to me.  He is like a second father to my middle sister.  She worked for him all through her undergrad years, lived in buildings he owned, worked for his friends.  He does my mother's hair too.

When I went to see him before Christmas, to get a trim before I went to Florida, he was moving slower than he had been.  I asked if we needed to touch up my color; "Probably," he said, "but I'm just not up to it today.  Is it OK to wait until you come back?"  Sure, I told him.  

This is a guy that I've watched put up drywall, hang an entire art show, move furniture, till a garden.  When I went for my color touch-up, he sat in a chair that he could raise and lower to put the color on my head, and he used it again to trim my hair.  Mixing the dyes was an exhausting effort for him.

I don't know what to do.  And saying that is just patently stupid, because I can't do a damn thing about him dying.  I can't change that.  He isn't a young guy; in his mid-70s doesn't mean he's old, either.  Until last week, I'd never seen him move like an old person.  It is breaking my heart.

Many times when I've spoken to my sister over the past year I've told her that I didn't think he was doing well, that I thought he wasn't telling anyone the full spectrum of what was going on, that she needed to make time to see him when she came "home" to Ohio.  She tells me she will, and then doesn't.  Surprisingly, that doesn't make me angry, it just makes me hurt all that much more, because when he does pass away, she's going to be in such pain.  We grieve for the loss of someone when they die, but we grieve more for the loss of the relationship, that we can't just call them, or pop by for a cuppa whenever we're in the neighborhood.

Like anyone else with a terminal illness, he know's he's dying, and like everyone else, I don't think he knows what to do about it, either.  

I hugged him when I left the salon on Saturday; that's not unusual, I'm a touchy/feely huggy sort of person.  What was unsual is I told him I'm worried about him; he smiled, and said, "I get by."

I'm not so sure I will without him.


John said...

Posted now for 5 days and I'm still struggling to find words. First, thank you for sharing this most intimate interaction in your life. When death comes knocking at the next door neighbor's house suddenly the stains on the carpet don't matter so much.

I have no "magic" words to share. Simply a common understanding of the grief you are encountering. How is it we can grieve when one we care about is still with us? Thank you for being counted as "present" in this man's life.

This shepherd has lifted prayers for you both today.


Lucy Arin said...

sincerely, thank you.

I struggled with the decision to post this...is the blog really an appropriate forum for this? and, as I'm sure you can imagine, shed more than a few tears while writing it.

Thank you for sharing that you can't find the words either. There's an old saying that sorrows shared are sorrows divided. While I certainly don't feel any 'better' about his illness, I feel validated, somehow, that I'm not the only one at a loss for words.