A friend who I had not seen for a few weeks took one look at me and asked: “Why are you growing those whiskers on your face again?”
“Laziness,” I replied.
She laughed, but I was not trying to be funny. I was trying to be completely honest. Those whiskers that are now getting long enough to look like a real beard survived the first day of life only because I was too lazy to shave.
It was a Saturday morning and my wife and I were going that day with another couple to see a play at Actors Theater of Louisville. Now I know a lot of people think my wife and I are a bit crazy for making the 360-mile round trip to Lousville four or five times a year just to see a play, but I have always loved live theater and some of the best plays in America are performed in downtown Louisville. To us, the time and fellowship we have with our dear friends plus the chance to see great shows is well worth it.
But this is not a column about seeing plays in Louisville. It is a column about being too lazy to shave.
As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror that Saturday morning, I actually picked up the shaving cream dispenser and a razor blade, but before making another move, I put them both down and washed my mug without shaving.
As our friends, my wife and I drove to and from Louisville, had dinner together and sat beside one another in the theater, no one said a word about my unshaven face. That’s totally understandable. A one-day growth of hair on my chin just looks like I had forgotten to shave, not that I was growing a beard. And at the time, I honestly didn’t know if I were growing a beard or not. All I knew is I had not shaved that morning.
But I also did not shave the next morning and went to church and sang in the choir sporting a two-day growth of whiskers. Again, no one said a word, not even my wife.
As longtime readers of this column likely know, I am no stranger to beards. In fact, I would say I have had a beard for at least 20 of the 36-plus years my wife and I have been married, maybe longer. When I played Kris Kringle in the Backstage Players production of “Miracle on 34th Street” 12 or 13 years ago (I’m not sure of the exact year. I could look it up, but I’m also too lazy to do that.) I went for more than six months without a razor or scissors touching a hair anywhere on my head. That produced the fullest and longest beard I have ever had, but all those whiskers did not bother me one bit. Instead, it was the long hair that bugged me, and as soon as the play ended, I got a haircut, but all I did was trim the beard.
When I started growing it, I thought the beard would be mostly gray or white because what little hair I had on my head was gray or white. But that beard grew out to be pretty much salt-and-pepper, so much so it had to be colored a bit for me to play Kris Kringle. After the play, it was the salt-and-pepper appearance that finally convinced me to go beardless for the first time in many years.
My mother was elated my face was finally clean-shaven. She hated my beard so much that once went I was shopping with her at the Kroger’s in Washington Court House, Ohio, she took an informal poll about my beard, stopping total strangers and asking them what they thought of my beard. Not only was it a bit humiliating, it also was not an accurate poll. When your question is “Don’t you think that awful beard makes him look older?” you are bound to get some odd responses.
Oddly enough, when I did shave my beard, people kept telling me how much younger I looked without it. However, with my current beard, it is of little importance whether it makes me look young or not. I look old with or without the beard because, well, I am old. The only question is wether I choose to look like an old man with whiskers or without them.
When I started to grow a beard about three or four years ago, I shaved it off because it still had too many dark hairs in it. That’s not really a problem this time. While, there are still dark hairs in my mustache and in my beard, they are few and far between.
I have yet to decide whether to keep this beard. I want to let it grow out a bit more to see what it looks like. The jury of one — me — is still out on the fate of my breard.
However, when my wife and I drove to Washington Court House Saturday to visit my 95-year-old mother, I was afrtied she would say something about my beard, but she didn’t. Her eyesight has failed so much, I honestly don’t think she can see well enough to realy recognize me, beard or no beard. And her Alzheimers has reached the point she often does not recognize me or remember my name.
In fact, if she had complained about my beard Friday, it would have been a wonderful Christmas present for me. Instead, she did something even better and gave me a keepsake I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Mom couldn’t remember my name, but during our visit she and I sang “Jesus Loves Me” as a duet, and my wife recorded it with her cellphone and put it on her Facebook page. It has brought the happy kind of tears to all my sisters and all of Mom’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What an amazing Christmas present for all of us.
This surely is Mom’s last Christmas. In fact, my prayer is the Lord would take her home to glory. She has no quality of life left, and if she knew what she were like, she would want to die. She has had a long, good life, but it is time to go. Maybe our little duet about the love of Jesus was her parting gift to her family. If so, it is a great one. Maybe someday I will be able to watch it without crying.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at email@example.com or at (606) 326-2649.