I had pulled the car out of the garage and set up a chair. Months earlier I had purchased a Norelco family hair cutting kit, and electric razor and attachments, for next to nothing at a garage sale. I had no idea why, but I brought it home, and now, now, it was plugged in and ready to be used.
The chemotherapy had left your hair in clumps. It fell into the shower drain, left bits on the pillow, left itself on the couch. Each bit that fell, you cried. I watched as you turned once, as I held you up in the shower to see your hair on the drain. Out of the shower, you stood, facing the mirror, clutching at your hair, pulling it out in clumps, tears falling, falling into the sink with the strands from between your fingers.
Hats you didn’t like. The scarves you used have been all given away.
You said you wanted your head shaved. I offered. You said no. You didn’t want me doing it. You didn’t want that to be the memory of my hand. You wanted Unena to do it. Only she would do.
We were sitting on the couches in the living room. We wanted to go out, the three of us. It would be one of the last nights we would go out, you and I. Maybe second to last. But first, your hair.
How did it come to this? Who once was the patient, now helping care for you. Who once you treated, now holding you up, walking with you, one of the few people you trust.
And she fell in love with you. And you with she. And I with her. What a strange circumstance. You, with barely a female friend all your life—you, straight as an arrow—seemingly, obviously, so in love. And it bothered me not one bit. That a blessing of love would come to you, with so little time left, made me smile. How much bigger our hearts were now that our hearts were breaking.
A folding chair in the garage. Craig’s chair. The one he left here for himself to use, unfolded, set by the open garage door. You, helped to the chair, sitting. A towel around your shoulders, on your lap. The razor plugged in. Hesitation. And she starts.
I can barely look at the razor as it glides over your scalp, and look down instead. Hair falling. Falling to your lap. Falling at your feet. Falling to the floor in soft puffs, blowing as the breeze would catch it, swirling around the garage and, then, out the door.
What did not swirl out of the garage, I swept out. Out, over the drive way. Out, into the grass. Let the birds have it, you said. Let them. What good to hold on?
Others might have saved your hair. But we discussed it. Decided no. Let it blow. Let it sail. Let it be carried by the wind, by birdwings and raindrops. Let it become the stuff of nests, work into the soil, seeds will grow, eggs will hatch and new life will come into the world nestled in your hair, and your hair will be all around us, around me, surrounding your home, in the ground and the trees, in the water, always there, always there, like you. Always there. Some of you, always there.
And the razor stopped. And all I could do was kiss your head. But I think Unena got there first. And that was OK. It was her hand that had done the deed, performed the mitzva, loosened further your already tenuous connection to this world.
I have a picture of the two of you. A month later. The last time you were out. The night you made her promise to take care of me. The night you made me promise to take care of her. Your heads are pressed together. Your smile. You smiled like that when you held your granddaughter. You smiled like that when you saw me. You smiled like that when your children came to see you after long absence. In less than a month you would leave us, and I don’t think I ever saw you smile quite that big.