Thursday, February 02, 2006

February 2, 2006 - My New Look

This morning I wake up and look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I'm feeling good enough to go to our church's weekly Men's Breakfast at the OB Diner, but the question is: will my beard go with me?

I pull gently on the beard. A few of the hairs come out. That's it, I say to myself, reaching for the new electric razor Claire just bought me (I've been instructed to avoid conventional razors, in case my blood platelet level dips, leaving me at risk for bleeding). The electric razor has a sideburn-trimmer attachment, and I use that to buzz off my beard and moustache – much as Jim the barber did with my head hair yesterday. The fine shaving with the electric razor that follows isn't as painful as I thought it might be. When it's over, I run my fingers over a chin that hasn't been clean-shaven for 23 years. (I'm a creature of habit, what can I say?)

A little later I drive over to the diner, and take my place at our usual table. The dozen or so men who go to this breakfast, most of them retired, sit in exactly the same seats every week. (I guess they're creatures of habit, too.) The way to really rile this group up is to sit in a different place. Apparently they've never considered this seating arrangement's chilling effect on newcomers, but then they haven't had a newcomer in a long while, so I don't suppose it much matters. I consider taking a different seat myself – to go with my new look – but then think better of it. I sit down in my accustomed place, and introduce myself as the new pastor. That breaks the ice a bit. I find it good to be there. Some of these men have faced some major health problems themselves, so they're very supportive. Besides, it just feels good to be out, after all those days spent in the house.

Today is Groundhog Day. They say Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-predicting rodent, waddled out of his burrow this morning and saw his shadow – meaning six more weeks of winter.

When it comes right down to it, of course, Phil is more of an entertainer than he is a meteorologist. Every February 2nd he's good for a newspaper headline or two. Yet there's a part of us that continues to be fascinated with this furry beast's legendary ability to predict the future.

What if we could know for sure what the next six weeks are going to be like? How would we live our lives differently, if we did know?

One strange thing about a chemotherapy regimen is that it allows patients to know more than most people do about what their immediate future's going to be like. This morning I sit down with the church staff for our weekly meeting. As usual, we all get out our calendars and PDAs. Every third Wednesday in my Palm Treo PDA's calendar is now blocked out for each of my upcoming chemo treatments. More than that, I now know that – based on my first treatment experience – I'd better not plan anything for the 5 or 6 days immediately following Chemo Day. As for the next week or so after that, it's sort of a gray area. The third week, I should be home free.

It's an odd feeling, to look ahead on the calendar and plot out the days when I'm going to be sick. But that's what the artificially-induced sickness of chemotherapy allows you to do.

Back home in the early afternoon, I greet Ania and Cory as they come home from school. Both are very interested indeed to see what I really look like under that beard. I prevail upon Ania to take a few photos.

Studying the contours of my face, Ania's especially interested to see something of my brothers Jim and Dave. I've always thought I look more like Dave than Jim, but – now that the beard is gone – I can definitely see some hints of Jim as well, especially around the mouth and jaw. Genes will out, as they say...

(left to right - Jim, Carl, Dave - August, 2005)


Anonymous said...

Definitely Jim, but with Dave's eyes . . . but then Jim's are behind glasses, so who knows?

I'll bet you three had fun fooling your mother when you were growing up, if you looked as much alike then!

(We're happy to have you as our new pastor, btw!)


jane said...

23 years? We've never seen you without the beard. But I must say, you look good.

Anonymous said...

You could pass as a friar, as well as a pastor. :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I've seen you without a beard. It was back in your college youth. You returned from a semester in Oxford England with a huge long beard. Shaved it off, and decided the beard was best. But you look good bald and beardless. Mother

Tarun Jacob said...

Looking good! There is no doubt about it!

Anonymous said...

I remember you well without a beard.... but never without hair!

You do look younger... I may have to shave off mine too... but not my head!!! :-)