Tuesday, January 17, 2012
My Father Knew How to Shave
As an adult, I often find routine dull, especially those mundane ceremonies Earthlings perform as they rise each morning.
As a child, however, I found myself fascinated by the precision with which my father would shave every day of his life, regardless of time constraints, weather, or pressing engagements. He taught me about shaving cream, razors, and safety blades. I marveled at the skill he demonstrated as he applied the shaving cream to his face like a sculptor, so as to appear to don a stark white beard. Then, with a surgeon’s touch, he carefully worked the razor blade, always starting in the same place, and ending with a smooth finish. Never once did he cut himself. I always do.
Yet, because dad throughout his life proved to be thorough and cautious, he showed me what a styptic stick looked like, although this five-year old had no real conception of its usefulness. Still, I remember focusing on everything he said, because it seemed so important to him.
My father knew how to shave. To me, it’s an obnoxious necessity. To dad, it represented what men did when they were men. I enjoyed much of my life bearded, just to avoid the process.
So vividly I recall acquiring knowledge about cars, while my father was shaving, but this writer would never attempt to change a spark plug. He told me of his experiences at war, but forgot to tell me he received medals for heroism. I learned that long after he departed. Instead, he spoke of the beauty of the French countryside, the magnificent Black Forest in Germany, and the value of freedom. My dad would have loved to ski the Austrian Alps, but he never did. I did. My kids grew up on skis, with me right behind.
When my father rinsed off his face each morning after his perfect shave, I pondered everything he ever told me in those early years, as I proudly handed him a towel. The man knew so much, and shared it with me. He had little formal education, but made it a point to offer me the option. I have a ton, but most of the lessons and values that have gotten me through life were absorbed in my earliest years, watching in awe as a man performed an ordinary task extraordinarily.
I find it quite ironic that while my father shared his life with me, he made sure I understood how important it was to be me. However, even now, when I peer into the bathroom mirror to shave each morning, I still wish I could see him.