Monday, December 02, 2019

No Shave November

As I sit here staring at a Christmas tree invading my space in my usual spot in the corner, I'm reminded that things can be a lot worse. A lot worse. I've been listening a lot to Gary Vaynerchuk, aka Gary Vee, lately and he constantly reminds me to be positive. That complaining isn't worth your time. That we live in an age where we really do have it better than ever.

And before I get too far, I'll warn you, especially you mom, that this may make you cry.

Growing up as a kid, I was totally comfortable with having divorced parents. It was normal for me. I never knew how horrible an experience it is, for everyone involved, until I got older and met kids who had parents in the middle of a divorce. Or parents who didn't talk to each other. And then, as I was even older, I talked to my parents more about their experience in getting a divorce. It sucked. Thankfully, they put me first and, despite what some may claim, I feel like I've come out of the process as a fairly normal person.

My mother would eventually remarry. Bobby. Pa. Bob. Whatever I called him, he was my stepfather. I didn't know it at the time but he wasn't the nicest man. He was but he wasn't. He would go from being a complete racist to showering me with love and gifts. I never knew how good, and bad, he was until I was older. He died twenty years ago this past July and it hit me and my mom hard at the time. It was unexpected.

Shortly after Bobby's death, my mom started dating a new man. Steve. When I first met him, he looked like Jesus. A slightly older version of a long haired, bearded, straight out of some gold plated art piece, Jesus. I was shocked at how fast my mom went from grieving her husband to moving in with a new man. As I got a little older and watched other people in my family go through the same process of losing a spouse, I realized it wasn't a mistake. I realized it was perfectly acceptable because it was what they wanted. It made them happy to be together, love each other, to live with each other. I was the one that had a problem, not them.

I got over my problem with mom and Steve. I grew to accept Steve. I never lived with Steve as much as Bobby so I never got to know him as well as I should have. Again, that was my problem, not theirs. But over the last twenty years, I've gotten to know him well enough that he's been the best thing my mother could hope for. The best thing I could hope for in somebody taking care of my mom. And they really do take care of each other.

Where is all of this leading? Steve has cancer. He's had several different types of treatments with varying levels of success. But the cancer isn't curable. He's currently going through chemotherapy treatments which, as is often the case, is leading to hair loss. For a man that has had long hair and a beard for decades, this is a big deal. Even though he says it doesn't matter, I think it's been part of his identity for so long, I think it will matter.

So that's why I grew a beard for a month. No Shave November, or Movember in some places, began as a way to raise awareness of cancer in men. It has grown over the years and morphed a bit, but the endgame is still the same. Raise awareness and money for cancer research. So I grew a beard for a month.

In the end, it was interesting to see how everyone reacted. My son noticed first and knew exactly what I was doing. My wife and daughter noticed but didn't say anything for a bit. My wife made it clear she didn't like the beard. My kids didn't care much. I don't think my dad said anything about it. My mom was sad when she found out why. I told her that if Steve was going to lose his beard to chemo, I could grow one for a month in honor of him.

Every day, I was tempted to cut it off. It itched for the first week. Made me look like a skunk for the second week. Tickled and made my face feel numb in the third week. Insulated my face from a cold pillow in the last week. All in all, it wasn't fun. But I knew, every time I wanted to call it quits early, I knew Steve had it worse than me. So I kept it growing.

As others around town noticed, only a few asked why I was growing a beard. If they asked, I told them. It felt weird giving an elevator pitch on how my beard was linked to Steve but after a few tries I got a little better. Most people didn't ask. Some didn't notice. And that made me realize that it was like cancer. So many people have survived it or are currently suffering from it yet they don't throw it around in conversation.

As we're now past No Shave November, I'm back to a clean shaven face. I hated that beard. I don't think I'll ever grow another one. I hate cancer. But I can't do anything about that. But maybe, just maybe, if we all throw a few coins into a pot, we can help researchers find a cure or a better treatment. After all, cancer treatments have progressed exponentially in modern history. After all, we really do have it better than ever.


No Beard:


John Zeleznik said...

I did it as well and I am going to continue all the way through March for St Bladricks! I should be very Wildling by then.

Unknown said...

What a great son and an eloquent writer.

Eric said...

I love you, and I’m always proud to be your cousin.

Susanna said...

Me tooo. Very good writing as well.