Over the years, families develop patterns or habits. We were no exception. When Mike was still unmarried, the Church where he pastored gave him a huge brown recliner. When we married, the recliner was always given a place of honor in our house. It was called “Daddy’s chair.” Mike would come in after a long day at work and park his big body in the recliner to wait for supper. The children took that opportunity to minister to Daddy. One child would scratch his head while the other would take his shoes off and rub his feet. The youngest child would have the honored position in daddy’s lap, brushing his beard. It usually took Daddy only 2 minutes to fall asleep. The kids didn’t mind; having daddy asleep or awake was fine play.
It is amazing how creative children can be. By the time Daddy came to supper, he was either combed down slick, looking like an old tintype picture, or sticking out in all directions, looking like a wild pirate. Of course, he never knew nor cared how he looked after one of those sessions. He just enjoyed the time of being scratched, rubbed, combed, and adored.
Now to understand and appreciate this story you need to know just a few more facts. Mike is a big man, reaching in his salad days to about 6’5” tall. His normal weight was about 220 or 230lbs. His hair was full and dark, almost black, and his beard was full, bushy, long, and black. In my youthful over-zeal, I prided myself as being very frugal. Therefore his tee shirts were always one or two inches too short, due to the local Dollar store not carrying X-large-X-tall sizes. I bought black tee shirts because they didn’t show stains and could be worn as a shirt, thus further saving money spent on clothes. So now you have a clear picture of Mike while the children were growing up. A huge man with a big black beard, with an inch of his mid-riff showing every time he moved. He had a habit of always pulling down his shirt. Now that he is an older, more distinguish man, I make myself pay extra for tee shirts that fit. But back then he was not yet so distinguished and I was very frugal. Anyway, you get the picture.
One Saturday he had been working in the heat of the day. When he walked in the door he collapsed in his chair and the kids rushed to minister to him. They brushed, combed, styled, rubbed and scratched; yet he continued to snore. In the midst of all this styling, creativity was born. Nanny had given the youngest girl a whole package of pink, yellow, and red plastic barrettes just a couple of days earlier. While daddy peacefully slept, the kids transformed their strong macho daddy into a cute braided, dolled up fellow. Still Daddy slept, so the children got tired of waiting for him to awaken and went to comb the dog. When he awoke I called out from the kitchen and asked him to go to the store for a few items. So off he went. Yes, you guessed it, with pink, red, yellow, and purple bows and ribbons decorating his beard and hair. About an hour later he came walking in the door a humble man, still in complete ignorance of why people were staring and snickering at him. He had spent an embarrassing hour trying to figure out what was so funny. He had checked his pants first, they were zipped. After a few more laughs he checked the backside—no problem there. He then decided just to hold down his shirt, but still the giggles. Now, you must understand, people usually don’t go around laughing at a man that big and hairy. Like I say, I hardly noticed the bows when he walked in, because he looked soooo humble. It is incredible how different a person looks who has just had a good humbling. Of course, then I noticed the rainbow of plastic girlie barrettes. When I couldn’t control my laughter he knew he had problems and headed for the bathroom to discover how he, the great Mike, could suddenly become a laughingstock. The mirror revealed the truth. Always a good sport, he had a good laugh as well.
For months he always headed to the mirror when the kids were through with him. Time passed and the children grew, his dignity returned. Ten years ago when we moved up here to the country, our youngest was 3 years old. Now there were only 2 little girls to groom Daddy, and with the passing of time, he forgot to check the mirror. When a man is young, people are not so surprised when he acts or dresses in a strange manner. Also, city people are generally a weirder lot, thus, are not totally surprised when they see strange things. But here in our fine area, people are generally good, clean and wholesome. So when this large, middle-aged, plain looking man entered the grocery store with bows and barrettes of every color and shape holding his beard into a several braids and his graying hair into standing knots, he was a spectacle so strange, so bizarre, and so ridiculous that the open mouthed stares and uncontrolled laughter immediately alerted him to a problem. Without even bothering to check his pants or hold down his shirt, he quickly left his grocery cart in the isle and headed out the door. The car mirror confirmed his worse fears. He was indeed one of those “kind.”
He has never completely recovered. Now when you invite him to do seminars, this dignified gray-haired man will stand before you with a habit born of sheer survival. With a distracted air he will run his hands over his hair a couple of times before he begins smoothing down his beard. We meet eyes and grin. He silently communicates, “Just checking, just checking.” And I smile, silently communicating back, “Just you wait, before too many years there will be grandchildren and you’ve still got some hair.”