Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Yesterday, I recounted (reprinted, actually) the story of Uncle Roy's Wake. In it, there was a description of the mild pandemonium caused when Roy's mustache was inadvertently shaved off. His mustache was always neatly trimmed, very close to the lip, and the funeral parlor personnel thought it was just three-day's growth of beard, so they shaved it.
Roy was Dorothy's father. When I first visited with her in June, we talked about her father's wake. She remembered the incident, of course. It also reminded her of a similar (if shorter) story.
At the time of this story, Roy had been stricken with a number of ailments. The chief culprit for purposes of this story was a semi-crippling bit of neuralgia, coupled with arthritis. As a result of these infirmities, Roy was fairly much bedridden. In addition, he had limited mobility of his arms. He could raise his hands only so high, and his grip with either hand was tenuous at best. Therefore, he had to have other members of his family do a number of everyday tasks for him.
Dorothy took care of many of these tasks. She would patiently feed her father, for example, and bring drinks to his lips. It was no doubt quite stressful, but Dorothy - as you know, if you enjoyed her story - is a kind woman with much love. She was a schoolteacher (with a Masters in education, by the way) so one would assume she had patience in abundance, as well. In any case, she did what needed to be done, and did it competently.
Well, that's not quite true. She was competent except in one instance.
Dorothy became tasked with shaving Roy. At best, shaving someone else is a shaky proposition. When you're shaving a part of a person that you don't normally shave on yourself - such as a woman shaving a man's face - it's downright nerve-wracking, especially if you're using something other than a modern safety razor.
When Roy shaved, he used an old-fashioned straight razor.
You can easily slice someone's face to ribbons with something like that, if you don't use it correctly.
Dorothy whisked shaving soap in a mug and applied it to Roy's face with a bristle brush. She wanted to make sure she got complete coverage of the areas she intended to shave, so she overlapped areas not needing a shave. And a bristle brush is not a precision instrument, so she had soap on Roy's upper lip, too. After letting it sit for a bit - in order to soften the whiskers - she started scraping the foam off with the straight razor. She started with the neck and worked up to the chin. She did the chin and jawline. Then she started on his left cheek. She started high, by the ear, at an angle. On the downstroke, she leaned into it just a bit too much. The razor slid easily, lubricated by the soap, and it took off almost half of Roy's short, neat mustache.
Roy was in great pain from the neuralgia, so that may have made the scraping of his upper lip less noticeable to him. In any case, he didn't say a word. Dorothy, however, wanted to scream. Here she was, trying to do her dad a favor, and she had instead turned his facial hair into a freak show. He was now THE MAN WITH HALF A MUSTACHE!
Dorothy was no dummy. She didn't let on to her dad that anything was out of the ordinary. She continued with the shave, being extremely careful not to shave off the other half of the mustache, nor do anything that would alert her father to the fact that he was already semi-hairless. She finished the shave, wiped Roy's face clean of excess soap, washed his skin with fresh water, and applied some after-shave (but NOT where his mustache had been, lest he feel the sting there.)
Dorothy had thought it all out during the end of the shave. She knew that Roy couldn't raise his hands. There were no mirrors in his room. If she could keep him from looking at his own face for four or five days, he might never even know what had happened. Roy's mustache was so neatly-trimmed to begin with, four or five days would more-or-less bring it back to what it had been. Then she could shave him again and leave the newly-grown-back half-mustache intact, with nobody being any the wiser.
She kissed him - mostly on the right side, so he wouldn't feel anything unusual - and left the room.
The only problem remaining was to alert the rest of the family as to what had transpired, and then warn off any visitors from mentioning Roy's lack. So, Dorothy posted a sign, in bold lettering, on Roy's bedroom door:
DO NOT TELL HIM ABOUT HIS MUSTACHE!
And, to Dorothy's relief, nobody did. Everybody kept a straight face when they talked to Roy - as hard as that might have been to do - and when Dorothy shaved him again about a week later, all was right with Roy's mustache and the world. Until the wake, of course.
Soon, with more better stuff.
P.S. In going through some family albums, trying to find a good representative photo of Roy and his mustache, a funny thing happened. There wasn't a single picture in my possession that was worth publishing here for illustrative purposes. Roy's mustache was so neatly-trimmed and fair, it barely showed up at all in the old black-and-white photographs. I could see it, but only because I knew it was supposed to be there. If I had put one of those photos out here for you to look at, and then gone on to claim that Roy had a mustache in that photo, most of you would have just been puzzled. So, that's why no photo of Roy accompanies this piece. If, at a later date, I find a photo that shows the mustache decently, I'll append it here. Of course, by then it won't do you any good.
So, all of the above postscript is basically useless information. Sorry! I'll just shut up and go away now...