It was a mistake. Not my first. Or my last. I knew I’d regret it, but did it anyway. Funny, isn’t it? The things we do for love.
Last year, when the pandemic shut down life as we knew it, we had no idea how long it would last, or what it might require of us. In some ways, we still don’t.
The journey has been infinitely more painful for some than for others. The loss of lives, jobs, homes and hope is a tragedy unlike any in our lifetime.
The only real difficulty for me — and it’s nothing compared to what so many have faced — is how much I’ve missed spending time with people: Family and friends, but also with strangers I’d meet on a plane or waiting in a line, strike up a conversation and hear their life stories.
Few things in life make us feel more human than sharing our stories with each another.
I’ve missed that a lot. Lately, as restrictions began to ease, I’ve loved reconnecting — meeting a friend for lunch, having my grandkids sleep over, or saying to a lab tech who’s drawing my blood for a check-up, “So, tell me, where did you grow up?”
It’s a magic question. Try it. You could hear a great story, not so different from your own.
I’ve been asking that question and others like it all my life. The pandemic hasn’t stopped me. It just made it harder, and gave me a new appreciation for it. Sometimes, we don’t miss what we’ve got until it’s gone.
Take, for example, hair.
In our 20 years together, my husband never asked me to cut his hair. Yes, he is a very smart man. But intelligence often defers to desperation.
Several months into the pandemic, with barbershops closed, his hair began to make him look — OK, I’ll just say this — like Larry of the Three Stooges.
So he ordered an electric hair clipper, handed it to me and for some reason, I accepted it.
Yes, that is the mistake I referred to at the start.
“It’s not hard,” he said, “the clipper will do all the work.”
Suddenly I remembered my grandmother’s words the day I phoned her to say I was marrying a Californian:
“Honey,” she said, “don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Yankees don’t make good husbands. I’m just saying they’re peculiar.”
Then she added, “Marriage is hard. Just remember: Don’t start doing anything you don’t want to keep doing forever.”
Why did I agree to cut my husband’s hair? I’m not sure. Was it the look of desperation that I saw in his eyes? Or what I saw growing on his head?
We went out to the patio, turned on the clippers and as we say in the South, the fur began to fly. Come spring, birds near and far would line their nests with tufts of his hair.
I didn’t do a great job. I just did the best I could. And really, what more can we do?
After I finished, he locked himself in the bathroom. I heard the clipper and thought, hmm. But when he came out he said thanks, and never complained.
I hoped that would be the end of my haircutting career. But I’ve hoped that about a lot of things in the pandemic. The end of COVID. The end of masks. The end of feeling like a prisoner under house arrest. But things don’t end until they end.
Yesterday, after his hair had grown an inch, my husband asked me to cut it. Again.
“Barbershops are open!” I said. “I’ll pay anything it costs!”
“I want you to cut it,” he said.
So I did. It wasn’t a great job. I blamed it on the clipper. But my husband didn’t complain.
We do things for someone, not because we’re good at it, but because we see a look in their eyes, or on their heads, or maybe even in the mirror, and it makes us want to help.
Little acts of kindness mean a lot. Listening to a story. Smiling through a mask. Or even giving a bad haircut. We don’t need to be the best at what we do. We just need to do the best we can.
Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or www.sharonrandall.com.