Thursday, July 30, 2020

40 Years Ago Today - July 30, 1980

The house on Flintlock Court gets sold! I have no idea how the sales price compares to today's market or even today's dollars but I would say on the surface it looked like a fair settlement. The new family, the Bidlacks, were a married couple but I'm not sure if they had children. They no longer live there.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pat The Barber

Pat. Just Pat. Or, more recently, Pat the Barber.

There have been many key men in my life. Men that have been there for years and decades. As it happens when you get older, many have died. Aside from my father and my grandfathers, most of these men were uncles. When I look back at my 40+ years of life, there are very few men from outside my family that have been there for more than a few years.

Pat Pelletier was one of them.

For over 30 years Pat was my barber. And my father's barber. And, more recently, he's been my son's barber. He was always there for me. Through tough moments in my life, and his, he was ready to stand behind me to give me a new look for the month. To make me feel better about myself.

I don't remember when I first met Pat but I can remember what likely drove us to him. When my dad and I moved to King George in 1980, we found a barber. I distinctly remember him cutting my hair. More specifically, I distinctly remember him rubbing his penis on my arm as he moved around the barber chair. My arm. Sitting on the arm rest. I remember where it happened but don't remember who it was. Just a faceless man cutting my hair while rubbing himself on me. I pass by the shop every day and, after 30 years, have days where I don't think about the assault.

I don't know if I ever told my father about the incident but I do remember, in some form or fashion, telling him I didn't like going there. So we found Pat cutting hair in Fredericksburg. He was across the street from the 2400 diner, on the corner of Princess Anne and Germania Streets, and it was a routine of going there for a haircut. Back then, Larry Lancaster, Pat, and a third barber would cut hair.

This was where I was introduced to the subtle routines of barbershops. Or at least I would have been if I paid attention. As I grew older, I realized there was a very precise, yet unwritten, ebb and flow to the routine. As the new arrival, you found an open seat and waited your turn. You had to take note of who else was sitting in the chairs waiting because there was no order to the seats, no deli counter tickets announcing which person was next. You just had to know. But if you goofed, or didn't pay attention, Pat would remember.

Pat would also remember your name. Most of the time. And he'd remember your haircut. All of the time. And as I got older, he'd remember when he last saw your father and tell you that he came in for a haircut the week before. But Pat was always there, ready to talk or listen or stay silent. He was adept enough to know what you were in the mood for and could adjust his socialization style just as quickly as he could adjust the clippers.

As a small boy, I wasn't given much choice in my haircut styles. Or at least my father had a few hard and fast rules on what haircuts I could not get, primarily a mohawk. With my son, I loosened the reins and he was allowed to get what he wanted. Being a Beatles fan, he insisted on growing it long like a mop head.

For over 30 years Pat was a staple of my life. Every month I'd stop in for a haircut. I went off to college and, if I was lucky enough to time my trips home right, I could avoid the barber in the small college town of northwestern Pennsylvania and have Pat cut my hair. I had no problems with those barbers, they worked in a pinch, but they always asked what number I was. Number 3 on top, number 2 on the sides. I could never remember the numbers. Pat, he just knew what you meant. He was an old fashioned barber and would know the difference between short, long, high and tight, and blocked in the back. And, if he cut it a little longer than you wanted, he always asked if it was okay before you left giving you a chance to have him fix it. But if you were in a rush, you could always sit down the following month and say, a little shorter than last time and he would remember.

My least favorite part of visiting Pat for a haircut was the itchy hairs left behind. As I grew older, those hairs got greyer. And fewer. And he began to offer to cut the hair in my ears. And eyebrows. But, over the years, the decades, that I saw him, my favorite part remains the back of the neck shave. Warm lather. A sharp straight razor. A steady hand. At times, it felt like I was in Floyd's Barber Shop when he pulled out the razor and sharpened it on the strop. It felt comfortable. Like home.

For over 30 years Pat was there for me. Unless he was fishing. Which would sometimes lead me to get a haircut from Larry. Or Pat's sister Paulette. Or his partner Joe. But oftentimes, if Pat was on vacation, it meant going home to wait until he came back. For over 30 years Pat was there, to listen to a quick summary of how your life was going. Or talk baseball or football or fishing. Regardless of where his shop was located, he was there.

I don't know when exactly it happened, but Pat got sick a few years ago. He started wearing gloves. Walking with a limp. Taking breaks with his foot in a chair. He was no longer the youthful barber of my childhood. He had grown into an old man with an underlying illness. As most men do, you put on a brave face and don't talk about it much. You suffer in silence. I never asked what was wrong with him but learned through the years that it caused him a lot of pain. Standing on his feet made things even more painful.

As time went by, his health improved in spurts and failed in spurts. And then he was diagnosed with cancer. Stage IV. I found out around the same time I found out my mother's partner had gotten the same diagnosis. It was heartbreaking on multiple fronts. As Pat rebounded a little after treatment, he told me he was at peace with death and ready for it. He didn't say it like he wanted to die but like a man that knew his time on earth would be short and that he was prepared to see Jesus.

After that conversation, he cut my hair one more time. Maybe twice.

Little did I know that my last haircut from Pat would be my last haircut from Pat. I went in a few times to have Joe cut my hair and would get some updates on how he was doing. In the hospital. Out of the hospital. In a care facility. Wherever Pat was, he wasn't standing behind me asking me if I wanted a long crew. I regret not saying goodbye to Pat one last time. Not giving him a hug or shaking his hand. He was there for me for so many years. He helped me look good.

And now he's gone. Gone are the days of itchy necks. Gone are the days of seeing a photo of his son in a baseball uniform. Gone are the days of seeing the football pennants on the wall. Gone are the days of seeing Navy hats on display. Gone are the days of a shaved neck. Gone are the days of the crinkly paper around your neck. Gone are the days of the Dippity-Do in your flattop. Gone are the days of a slightly slippery floor covered in loose hair.

Pat the Barber is gone. But his impact on this world is not.

Patrick James Pelletier
September 17, 1948 - July 16, 2020

Saturday, July 04, 2020

40 Years Ago Today - July 4, 1980

Seems like forever ago but here I am at a Fourth of July parade. I think it was Dolton, Illinois, but it it could have been some other town in the suburbs of Chicago.



Monday, June 29, 2020

40 Years Ago Today - June 29, 1980

After my uncle's wedding, we had a family gathering to celebrate. And to participate in the "Lester Olympics II." I apparently won the running event and my dad won a special award for "Best Daddy."



*Note - Some images have been edited to protect the privacy of living relatives.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

40 Years Ago Today - June 27, 1980

It was the day of the wedding and I looked pretty spiffy in my tan, three piece suit!







*Note - Some images have been edited to protect the privacy of living relatives.