Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Okies, part 4

My greatest source of information about my parent's life is my own grandparents' stories. Grandma Harris was a prolific story teller and family historian. Hers was an oral history, shared over and over to young eager ears. Mom’s dad also had the gift of great story-telling, though one had to question the veracity of his yarns. Very few of his tales ever involved the Guier family life. Rather, Grandpa Guier's stories told about his version of the Navy during the War, or the goddamned engineer at Conoco who didn't know his head from a cotton-picking hole in the ground, or the son-of-a-bitchin’ kid who drove over his fence again. It was always something dramatic and heavily colored with language.

My parents, Warren and Sandi, first met each other in elementary school, in first grade. Dad was a normal kid of the fifties, blonde with glasses. Mom was very thin, had long blonde hair and was very cute. My mother's recollection of my father at that time was that he was a boring boy that she had little time for. After first grade, they went into separate schools on opposite ends of town, and didn't hook back up until high school.

One of my father's defining characteristics, part of who he is, is his baldness. For his entire adult life, he’s been almost completely bald. He’s got a great big melon of a head (like me) and this little tiny ring of hair that rests like a horseshoe atop his ears (not like me, thank-you-very-much!). Since his late teens, he’s had little more than this, except perhaps for the wispy feather of hair just above his forehead. Until his thirties, he held onto this bit of wispy hair, pretending to be a side part. But by forty, it was gone too, leaving just the ring of hair.

Yet, as long as I’ve been alive, he’s never been ashamed to be bald. He proudly wore shirts in the seventies proclaiming himself to be a “Chrome Dome.” He's been very good natured about the inevitable and endless bald jokes that always seem to seek him out.

Friends and family alike have teased him about being bald, and we’ve joked that his baldness all stemmed from an event in the summer of his tenth year. Grandpa Harris had enlisted Uncle Dale, being the older brother by three years, to get my father a haircut. Dale has always been a bit of a mischievous character. His garish red hair and freckles, the only child in the Harris family with these traits, symbolized that wild-kid-down-the-street streak in Dale's nature. He was always the kid that parents keep their girls from seeing.

Entrusted with the chore of getting Warren a haircut, Dale walked my father to the barber shop and sat him into the chair.

The barber asked, “So, what’ll it be today?”

Dale confidently replied, “Just cut it all off."

"You got it," the barber replied.

What kind of barber listens to a thirteen year old kid? Had the barber’s wife been there, I’m sure she would have screamed at him, “Harry! What the hell are you thinking? You want that boy’s mother after you?” But this is not how it happened. How it happened is that my father was shaved bald. Completely bald. His golden locks fell to the floor.

Upon inspecting himself in the mirror, Dad was so embarrassed, he ran from the barber shop, put on a baseball cap, and hid under a parked car.

Eventually, a little girl he knew saw him under the car.

“What's wrong, Warren?" she asked.

"Nothing, go away!" my Dad replied.

She finally coaxed him out from under the car, and convinced him to show his damaged pate to her, only upon the promise that she not laugh.

Dad removed his cap.

The girl laughed. A lot. And dad ran all the way home.

To the very end of her days, my grandmother regretted this loss of my father’s perfect beautiful hair. Even as an adult, she still spoke scornfully about Uncle Dale, and I believe she still resented this childish act of his. And Uncle Dale still yuks it up about this tale.

We tease Dad that it never grew back.

© Copyright 2005-2014, Scott E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Please do not reproduce or copy without the permission of the author.