It’s late Monday morning when I finally hit the shower. After the usual battle of soap versus stink, I towel off and start shaving.
Ever since I switched to an old-fashioned double edged razor, I’ve developed a bit of a shaving fetish (Not that kind, you perverts.) and now the bathroom shelf my wife installed for her stuff is lined with a varied collection of shaving soaps, creams, aftershaves and a stand for my razor and silver tipped badger hair brush. Marriage is compromise.
I whip some shaving soap into a lather and use the brush to rub it into my beard. Once I’m satisfied the lather’s not too runny or dry, I start shaving. Assuming a normal life span, I will spend approximately six months of my life performing this task. One website said a man will shave 20,000 times before he drops dead. I started shaving when I was sixteen so, discounting the time I sported a beard, I’ve shaved about 10,000 times. I’m halfway there.
While I’m afraid of pain, I’ve never been very afraid of death. Once I shuffle off my mortal coil I’ll either be singing with the seraphim or reduced to an oblivious pile of atoms. Any way you cut it, my problems will be over. But now, as I watch my wife burgeoning with new life, I have a new fear. How many shaves do I have left?
If I make it to the 20K average, my child will be almost thirty when I die. That bothers me because I’m 45 and still have my parents. I’d have made it to ninety to see my child reach the age I am now. That probably won’t happen. What’s worse, I could die while my child still needs me. Standing in my bathroom, I can hear the ticking of life’s clock.
As I remove the whiskers under my nose, I remember that this could be my last shave. That’d be a disaster. Looking at recent fatalities among people I’ve known, I could might get eaten up by cancer at forty-seven, felled by a heart attack at fifty-five or stroke out at sixty. If those fates befall me, I’d leave my child too soon. I guess it’s time to buy life insurance.
I reapply shaving lather and set my face up for a second pass. The area under my jawbone is problematic and requires a steady hand. Last night I found out a deranged man I recently dealt with had hidden a razor blade under his tongue. He could have whipped it out and cut my throat before I had time to react. Forget natural causes of death – there might be a knife, bullet, car, fist, iron-pipe or bomb out there with my name on it.
As I listen to my whiskers scrape off, I tell myself I’d take living to eighty. My child will be thirty-five then. Family longevity suggests I can make that number. C’mon. Let me live an extra 1800 shaves; let me be with my child 1800 more mornings. Great, now I’m bargaining with the cosmos over the bathroom sink.
Now I’m working on my third pass, when I shave against the grain for a baby smooth finish. My wife likes that. As the last of my whiskers fall beneath my blade, I think of Death’s scythe mowing down everything that ever existed. If I have a son, will I get to teach him how to shave? If I have a girl, will I get to warn her about boys who do? I might be a lump of matter moldering in a grave by then. Or maybe I shall watch this kid grow up from my perch in Elysium.
I rinse off my face with cold water, pat it dry and then splash on some bay rum – an old masculine scent. My possible daughter might fall for a guy who wears bay rum one day. Odds are good she’d fall in love with an older man. Freud wasn’t always wrong.
As I look at myself in the mirror, I see the grey threatening to overtake my hair. My children will know me in the autumn and winter of my life. If I spend my days anxiously looking at diminishing pages of the calendar, I will screw them up. That’s one of the challenges I will face. How will I handle it? I have no fucking clue. I’ll just have to deal with life as it comes. I just hope who I am will be enough. It had better be.
I rinse out my brush and razor and put them in their stand to dry, praying my baby gets to see me shave ten-thousand more times.
I hear ya. I’m 47, and last year danced with cancer. I told my doctors I want to live until my son is 40 – he’s 7 now. You get a brand new perspective when you’ve got your own little person to look over. Only thing you can do, Steve, is take this all one day at a time. It’s all we got.
Congratulations on your marriage and your impending fatherhood! A lot has taken place since your last posting. I hope that you live to a ripe old age. But then, do you want your child to have to change YOUR diapers?
I know a few people who had kids at your age. Kept them young and active and relevant. It will be okay once the kid is here. You will be too busy to think about croaking prematurely.
I’ve had the same dialog with myself when my first child was in utero. So, as I think you would appreciate, I started writing him letters. Telling him things I hoped I’d get to tell him live, knowing that I might not actually get the chance. It was a good compromise. Cathartic and productive… and after I bought life insurance, too. 😉
Nice read Steve (gotta say I much preferred it to the last one).
Yeah, having kids really changes your perspective on lots of things.
You made a good point – if you spend all your time worrying about the passing days you won’t make the most of them while you have them. Then all of a sudden they are all gone.
Focus on being great here and now and worry about the end when it ends.
Glad you got that one out of your system. We don’t ever know what’s going to happen.
I have no kids, but my wife has multiple medical problems, and I don’t want to leave her on this earth alone. You do what you can do, and that includes taking better care of yourself; funny how that becomes easier/more important when a loved one’s well-being depends on whether you live or die.
But I think you know all this stuff. The shaving is a sign of that; a ritual, to ground yourself for the day. It’s good for you, like meditation.
Amazing how children make you take a hard look at mortality. My daughter is 8 years old and my husband is 52. I pray all the same things for him. (As I’m sure your wife does too.)
My father had his first and last heart attack four months short of his 57th birthday. I figured that 57 would probably be it for me. When I woke up on my 57th birthday, I told myself that every day thereafter was a gift, and I’d damn well better make the most of it. I’m 77 now, and I still enjoy every day as if it might be my last. My mother made it two weeks past her 100th, so who knows? Enjoy!
I just turned 25. My Dad turned 83 this year. Growing up, a part of me knew that my time with him would be cut short and I sensed he did too. It was a completely unspoken understanding.
He was a busy man, running his own business but he couldn’t take too much time away but he somehow managed a wonderful balance between providing a really wonderful life for me and making the important moments count. Even just driving somewhere with me in the car he always probed “what are you thinking?” which lead to insightful conversation about anything and everything.
He suffered a stroke when I was 21. I still speak with him often, but he doesn’t reply anymore. That isn’t the point though.The point is that if you make every moment count, the quality of the time you spend will be your fail safe and will outweigh the quantity.
“deranged man I recently dealt with had hidden a razor blade” — let’s hear the story