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Posts Tagged ‘barber. barber pole’

With Ken's Alzheimer's I'm still his barber

In my father’s day the cost of a shave and haircut was six bits, which equaled .75 cents, but seldom did he frequent the town’s barber shop with the spinning red, white and blue pole marking the right place for men to gather and compare crops while waiting their turn in the barber’s chair.  That .75 cents could be used for something more important agreed both Mom and Dad, so my mother cut his thick sandy hair the better part of their married life even after it turned into a collar of white fluff circling most of his head — until she couldn’t.  Ken let me cut his hair once and only once.

It was a time when I was cutting hair for everyone in the house, except him. Having honed my expertise on our boys, as well as the girls, he decided to give me a chance.  Obviously, I didn’t measure up when the men at work asked if his wife had cut his hair.  “Never again,” he announced to me several times while waiting for the amateur’s evidence to grow out which seemed, for him, like forever.  Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  I had seen worse haircuts for which men paid good money, but it was a man’s thing to tease and ride the fun to the very end; the end being when Ken went back to his barber for a professional cut.

Not that I enjoyed cutting hair, but with young males in the house (and one adult male who was much too sensitive) the savings on three haircuts every two weeks – six haircuts a month – was sizeable. With guards on the clippers gauging the depth of the butch cut as I buzzed each boy’s head I couldn’t miss.  The same for the girls and me.  A few snips and the bangs were trimmed and a few more snips removed any split ends. 

It was that first boy who presented a challenge.  His soft-as-silk baby hair had been twisted around my finger into a cupie curl longer than he father thought was necessary.  Finally Ken insisted that his son begin looking like a boy.  Hardly enough hair to “butch” so I started to scissor cut the feathery, elf-like wisps bouncing off his ears.  “No!” he cried, staring up at me in alarm.  While his vocabulary was very good for a two-year-old, Kevin’s understanding about his hair being cut was zero.  He waved his hands in an effort to cover his ash-colored hair and cried when I came near.  Having snipped the one side I wanted to match what I had already done, but just the sight of me – scissors in hand – sent him into tears and great heaving sobs.  The buzz from the clippers was worse.

“You’ll have to take him to the barber,” I said to Ken when he got home.  “He needs to go through a period of adjustment, and I’ll gladly pay to have someone else deal with the trauma.  If he watches you get your hair cut, then he might be willing to allow your barber to cut his.”

The following Saturday I dropped them off at the shop while I picked up a few groceries. When I returned 40 minutes later Kevin was looking out through the shop’s window, his face sad and solemn, a few tears still evident, but his new hair cut proved him to be quite the little man.  Ken strapped him into his car seat and sat down on the passenger’s side.  “How did it go?” I asked.  “Okay, I guess,” he said, “ but Kevin cried so hard he threw up all over the barber.  I suppose he’s used to surprises when giving little boys their first haircut.”  I looked at my now-smiling son who was feeling secure and happy, and said,  “Glad it was the barber and not me.”

If the first haircut is a disturbing rite of passage, then so be it.  It was over, but it took another half dozen trips to the barber with his father (each visit becoming less of a trauma) before I took on the duty.  The transition went smoothly and soon Mom and the hair clippers, or scissors, were no longer a threat, and having his hair cut became very routine.  When the younger brothers (who came along at two-year intervals) were old enough for haircuts, they happily hopped up on the stool as if Mom cutting their hair was something very special.  I continued cutting their locks until the late sixties when most young men insisted on wearing their hair long and flowing.  I suppose that too became some kind of rite of passage during the Hippie movement.  And Ken?  He remained staunch in his decision to never again allow me to cut his hair – until? 

Two weeks into retirement he began to look a bit shaggy.  Reminding him he should get a haircut, he said, “You can cut it for me.  Styles have changed and you do a good job.”  It had been a long time since there  was anyone living at home who needed a haircut.  “I haven’t cut hair in years,” I reminded him.  “It’s like riding a bicycle,” he countered, “just begin and you’ll know what to do.”  “But I don’t want to cut your hair,” I argued.  “We don’t have to economize anymore.”  The two of us continued to banter back and forth weighing the pros and cons of me, the barber or Super Cuts taking on the duty of cutting Ken’s hair.  I lost.  He talked me into giving him a bi-weekly “trim” with the assurance that he would continue to look his handsome, neat and tidy self. I’ve been doing it ever since.

With all of the battles of AD, there are some days when he begins to take on that shaggy-dog look once again.  “How about letting me cut your hair today?” I ask.  “No way.  You’re not touching my hair.”  His voice is firm as he runs a hand over what remains of his white hair, smoothing what is already smooth. “I cut it all the time,” I answer in an effort to gently persuade him.  “No!” he states again.  So we go on to something else and save the haircut idea for another time.

I find it interesting how easily Ben and Crizaldo (our new relief caregiver) are able to shave his face.  As soon as one of them says, “We’re going to have a shave this morning,” while patting shaving cream over his cheeks and chin, Ken sits very still.  I notice he even stretches his mouth properly for the razor to get into the difficult places on his face.  I suppose shaving is another one of those “man” things coming automatically.  After all, he has done it just about every day of his whiskered life, so shaving doesn’t have to be reintroduced every time like getting his hair cut.

“Try again after he eats,” suggests Ben.  “He’ll be in a better mood.”  I have to agree with Ben, Ken is more likely to cooperate in the morning after he gets cleaned up and eats his breakfast.  Eventually, he is cooperative and agrees to allow me to cut his hair.  Putting the barber’s cape around his neck I know I have to work quickly and keep up a chatter so he doesn’t get bored and change his mind.  So far we’ve made it all the way through which includes an eyebrow trim.  Sometimes he even says “Thank you.”

I would hate for him to look unkempt and neglected.  Being afflicted with AD is no excuse to look like some of those old and awful photos of Howard Hughes at the end of his troubled life.  Ken is still my husband and the man I care about and love.  Still handsome, I want him to look his best for me, our friends and family, and for himself.  If it takes me cutting his hair I can do that and it’s okay if in my haste I make a mistake. I doubt the guys from work will be inspecting.

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