10 April 2009

Cancer just sucks.

"Take time with a wounded hand, 'cause it likes to heal" 

sang Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots in 1992.  STP were known for their metal-leaning hard rock.  I wouldn't have called myself a fan, necessarily, but I didn't turn the radio off when their stuff came on, either.

That line, 'take time....to heal' is something that's on my mind.

I wrote a while back about my hairdresser, and his struggles with cancer.  A battle that he was losing, slowly.  The beast won the battle just a few days ago, and the wound of his passing is still very raw.  

He and I had been playing a merry-go-round game of 'cancel the appointment' for a few months.  He cancelled on me because he wasn't up to cutting hair.  I cancelled on him when I had a miserable head cold, and knowing his immune system was weakened, I didn't want to expose him to the germs.  He cancelled on me again a week or so later.  We'd been having a game of phone tag, where I left him a message, he'd leave me one, and we hadn't talked for about 2 or 3 weeks when I heard of his death.

The last message he left me (which I hope I will always be able to remember) went something like this: "Lucy, its C.  I'm sorry about not getting to you, but I'm just not having a very good time.  We'll get you in before you leave.  I'll talk to you soon."  I didn't call him back, worrying that if I did, he'd feel pressured to....hell, I don't know.  I wish I had called him, because I didn't really have a chance to say goodbye.  Not that I would have known I was talking to him for the last time.  He wasn't keen on a big emotional scene, anyway.

I didn't find out about his death until 3 or 4 days after it happened, and I was not surprised that he had passed, but saddened that I hadn't heard sooner.  As I had known would happen, the job of telling both of my sisters (they of the opposite coasts) and my mother of his death fell to me.  I did not make it through even one of those phone calls without breaking down and crying.  The hardest was my NYC sister.  She had not heard either, and it broke my heart to be the one to break the news to her.

You might be reading this and wondering why so much sturm und drang over the death of a hairdresser; but he was so much more than that to me.  Friend, artist, teacher, fellow liberal, collector of off-color jokes, a real character.

After that last phone message he left me, I called someone else I know that cuts hair and asked her if she could trim my hair for me.  I had been putting off doing that, knowing if he called me on a day that he felt up to it, and I was to show up with my hair pre-trimmed, his feelings would have been very hurt.  I put it off by trimming it myself around my face, to keep it out of my eyes, even though cutting your own hair is generally not a good idea unless you know what you're doing.  I don't.  But I figured me hacking at it would be less hurtful to him than actually seeing someone else.

Two days after I heard of his death, I had the appointment with the someone new.  DH told me that he was surprised that I had someone else do my hair so quickly after his death, but I'd had the appointment for more than a week, and I'm leaving in 9 days, so I went.

No one has cut or colored my hair besides C in 15 years.  No joke.  

I spent the entire appointment with the new hairdresser blinking back tears.  Every thing she did, everything she touched, brought back memories of conversations I'd had with C, every discussion about cut and color and dyes and products reminded me of something else he'd done.  I always liked the way that C washed my hair.  Don't ask, I can't describe why what he did was different than any other hairdresser, it just was.  He moved through 4 salons in those 15 years, and never varied at all the way he set up his station, laid out his scissors, washed hair, put the color in.  My hairstyle and color changed drastically, and clothing styles altered too, techniques for coloring and cutting hair went on a roller-coater ride from grunge to highly styled in that time, but the methodical way he worked through each client was consistent.

He had a gentle voice for someone as tall as he was, and a very slight tinge of his native Arkansas could be heard every now and then in his speech.

I was looking for something upbeat to put as my Facebook status that also was meaningful, something that my friends would know I was still thinking about him, and I found something by Thomas Campbell that seemed to fit, and I will leave you with it.  (n.b., I have no idea who the bloody 'ell Thomas Campbell is, but I like the sentiment.)

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

He touched the hearts of many.  I will miss him something dreadful.

1 comment:

John said...

No words will suffice here. Simply know you are in the prayers of this shepherd.