Friday, September 18, 2009

In Appreciation

"I think the most important thing a woman can have - next to talent, of course - is her hairdresser.”

--Joan Crawford

To most people hair is a source of some confusion. We love it; we hate it. We strive to please it with expensive shampoos and conditioners. Some days it turns against us in our hour of need; other times it comes through big time, somehow understanding it needs to take center stage on those days when the wardrobe falls apart.

I used to hate my hair, longing to have more of it, frying it with perms and torturing it with curling irons to get it to look like I wanted it to look. Like a relationship in which one person wants to change the inherent nature of the other person, it was fraught with adversity. My hair wasn't happy and I wasn't happy either. It was bad. Believe me. I have the pictures to prove it.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found Zeke, my hairdresser.

I sat down in Zeke's chair and he worked his magic on me. He said no to perms; he said no to strange exotic cuts. He worked with my straight, somewhat thin hair and showed me how to style my hair to accent my fine features. He made Betty look good, honey.

I have seen Zeke every six or seven weeks since then. He is a constant in my life, one of those people I count on. He is the consummate professional, always on time, always willing to listen. Above all, he is kind. Ten years ago, he reached out to a child in the foster care system and adopted him, providing him with much needed stability, a sense of belonging and, most of all, love.

I realized how much I counted on him years ago when he sent out letters to all his clients. I knew he was considering changing careers at that time, and I shook when I saw that envelope arrived. I was sure this was his way of telling us he was getting out of the hair biz and moving on. I couldn't even open the letter. I made one of my sons do it. "What's it say?" I asked nervously. "He's raising his prices," my son read. "Oh, thank God," I replied. When I think back on that event, I realize now how selfish I sounds. And I was thinking of my hair, but I was also thinking of the possibility of not having contact with Zeke every seven weeks.

Just recently Zeke's son died. It was a sudden, unexpected death. Now he faces the battle of his life as he copes with this loss. I remember how he helped me work with what I had and stop wishing for what might have been and wish somehow I could give him that gift. This, however, is bigger than all of that. What he has in his life is a large chunk of ugly, lonely, rocky reality. He has to face it day after day after day, yet he somehow climbs over every day and comes to work in the salon. Through it all, he is the consummate professional, a kind, generous man.

I wish I could express to him my admiration for all he does and how my heart hurts for him right now. I tend to get all choked up when I try, so instead I sit in the chair, while he clips away and we talk about movies, and about how he is doing, how he is filling his time now that his son is gone. I leave and go out into the world with my new haircut and my deepening true appreciation for Zeke, for his skill, not only as a hairdresser, but as a human being as well.


Anonymous said...

sending healing and gratitude to zeke.

Brian said...

Unbelievably sad. I wish I'd read this before responding about my stupid non-existent poems.