vintage barbershop;
Janet

Janet

Dad

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I thought my dad was handsome.

Maybe all daughters think that about their dads. I

know that a good part of why I thought he was handsome was because I respected him.

Despite his glaring faults and sins: besides drinkin’, Dad was an impressive cusser. Dad had decided early on that his children would know that he loved them, with all his heart. Although we suffered, truly, his temper it was countered with his love. It was seldom an easy life, but it was always a certain life. No matter what, Dad would always love us. He told us that and he showed us that.

As Dad got closer to God in his daily task of sobriety, it was clear Dad was determined to do something else. It was important for him to tell us how he was staying sober every day, he told and showed us his faith. There were a thousand deeds and a thousand conversations that I can play in mind, as he offered us his own life as a witness.

Once, late at night, when I guess neither of us could sleep, we sat on the screened in front porch and I waited for him to talk. (It is my memory that I talked very little, I mostly listened. As an emotional prattler now as well as then, I was sensitive enough to know that even in the calm times my chatter drove Dad crazy.) Out of the blue, he said, ”Janet, I used to jump out of airplanes and before I would go over I would watch the catholic soldiers crossing themselves. I would tell them, you trust your God to get you on the ground, I am going to trust this parachute.” He paused, very slightly lifted his head to look out into the dark and finished with wonder and humility in his voice, “And You let me get to the ground in one piece, many times.” He was a study in strength and stubbornness that God tempered heavily with an ever increasing humility. It was clear. Every step Dad was taking in his quest for wisdom, humility was the answer he was coming up with.

If I thought Dad was handsome, maybe it wasn’t just me, maybe there was some physical basis to it, right? With Indian blood flowing through his veins, he had wood warm brown eyes and the skin that goes with them. No freckles. He had rough hands, with calluses from laborers work and scars that told of boxing when he was young. To me they testified to his strength and endurance. His hair was dark and fine and straight and as he got older, thinner. He always carried a fine toothed comb and when he didn’t wear a hat, even ever thinning hairs seldom went astray.  It may have been, just may have been, that Dad was a bit vain about his looks. He kept his self appointed schedule every two weeks at the barber shop, regardless of what was going on in his life or how long his hair had grown during that time. He had his own vision of what a well-dressed man would look like, hairline neatness figuring large, and he was faithful to it. 

There was very little that was off limits for me if Dad thought it would teach me something. The one thing that seemed to fall into that category was the barbershop. Sometimes Dad would come home from his bi-weekly appointment and in fleeting words mention that he had gotten a shave there. Another time, he described that the barber washed his hair and massaged the tension from that laborers neck and shoulders and head. I couldn’t quite get my mind around this; Dad sitting in a barber chair and getting a shave and a massage? Dad was particular, and fine straight hair shows every cut of a blade, so of course the years produced a relationship with this one barber who knew every unsightly bump of the small man who sat in his chair. The barber saw him every two weeks of his life for decades and he knew when the slump of his shoulders defined that laborer’s difficult week or sadness or joy filled the brown eyes of his loyal customer. He responded in kind, more than about money, there was a certain kind of ministry or service. I wanted to go there. Surely, I thought, there were lessons there I could learn. Dad was adamant and in the rare occasion he mumbled, he said something about their being magazines there unfit for women and it was a place just for men. Dad wasn’t going to share this with me. I resigned myself but thought it was unfair and my imagination went wild with magazines unfit for women.

One fine autumn day, one of the last Dad and I would spend together, he asked me, “Jan, would you take me to the barbershop? It’s been over three weeks since I had my haircut.” I looked over at him, too weak from treatments to drive, his balding head showing suffering signs from cell killing chemicals, my handsome Dad was still there. His profile was strong because the spirit inside was. Despite what his physical body would look like in the months to come, his heart and spirit and soul were still who God was making him to be and I would soon know this. “Okay, Dad, I will wait in the car while you get it.” I said. Wincing a bit in pain, he said, “No, you can come in Janet.” For a moment I didn’t think about Dad being sick. I was going to the barbershop. I was elated and scared. Maybe I should decline. I felt selfish, I wanted to go but my daughter’s heart feared that Dad’s change of heart meant something I didn’t want to know. The wise brown eyes that had seen a lot, looked over at me, his daughter driving him, and with only a smile from the heart mirrored in them, he said, “It’s alright”.  

I had to ask him how to get there. Funny, I had no idea where it was. We pulled into the parking lot, the barbershop storefront, old and decaying, and this daughter traced the father’s step’s through a door he had been through many times. The old barber watched as we entered, and with knowledge of seeing a man every two weeks for decades, awareness shown in his eyes and he greeted him. “This is my daughter”, Dad said. My eyes darted around afraid to see magazines I shouldn’t. I watched as the barber covered my Dad with the cape and lovingly trimmed nothing from my Dad’s fine head. Dad closed his eyes in rest and relaxed into his barber’s familiar ministrations. The picture is painted on the walls of my heart as Dad knew it would be. 

Life, despite what you might think, is really very simple. It’s about people caring for other people, whether it be daughters, barbers, or fathers, here and in Heaven. Most of the rest of what we worry about can be placed aside if we let humility and then faith take up the space.

Bible verse of the day: 
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Quote of the day: Confidence without humility breeds meanness, self-righteousness, and arrogance. But the wisdom born from humility is lost to the world without the confidence to share it. Walker, 2005

Quote for the week: True Texans will always appreciate the time honored talents and devotion of a trusted barber to show, and allow Texas’ sons the chance to redefine and recharge our existence by sprinkling a little talc on the back of our neck, brushing it away with the coarsest horsehair, then gently massaging in the cool, blue, chill of barbershop aftershave. Jake Siefert in True Texans: Barbershops, 2005

Wiki page of the day: (Who knew?;) http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Humble

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