Twenty-odd years ago, Dad taught me to shave with a can of Barbasol and a blue disposable razor. About two years ago, I started exploring wet shaving and I now shave with straight razors or an early 70’s Gillette Tech double edged razor when I’m in a hurry. I seem to remember Dad having an Old Spice shave mug and brush when I was a kid, but like a lot of guys his age he had long ago changed to canned cream and disposable razors.
In september of 2011, my dad passed away from the effects of Primary Progressive Aphasia and dementia. In the last few years of his life, dad lost the ability to take care of himself. We promised him and each other that we’d keep him at home as long as possible, and we did just that, he stayed home until the end. Luckily, my family is close, figuratively and geographically, so my brother, sister and I (along with many others) helped mom take care of him. Long before he needed full time care, he needed help with the little things and grooming was on the list. While mom was perfectly comfortable combing hair and trimming fingernails, the job of shaving went to my brother and I.
For most of his adult life, Dad sported a bushy moustache. It wasn’t quite up to Magnum P.I. standards, but there were times when it got close. He started to grow a goatee when he was still shaving himself, so the task of shaving was a bit easier with less real estate exposed.
Procedurally, we came up with a routine that worked pretty well for all of us. We would sit dad on a stool in the kitchen, trim his goatee and moustache with electric clippers. A little warm water on the face was followed with canned shaving cream. To make things easier and a bit safer, we stuck with the disposable razors. A single pass with the grain was enough, taking care to keep the skin tight to avoid any nicks or irritation on his dry skin.
At first, Dad was sure that he was going to end up bloody from our shaves. Even though his ability to speak was blunted from the effects of PPA, he still managed to communicate that he fully expected an incident free shave. It didn’t take long for him to trust our skills and I think that he truly began enjoy the regular visits from his personal barbers and the experience of having someone shave him. Beyond the soothing warm water and smell of the shaving cream, it was 15 minutes of uninterrupted face to face time with his sons.
Dad was the kind of guy that didn’t like the idea of relying on anyone else, so relinquishing this kind of control to someone else wasn’t easy for him, but he did understand and appreciate what we were doing for him. For my brother and I, shaving dad was the first of many tasks that we’d have to take on for dad in the years that followed. It was a connection between three men at the most basic level. The two of us taking care of the needs of the man who taught us how to take care of ourselves.
I maintain two blogs. I created Soul Influences to write about the people who have shaped who I am, to this point the posts have been centered on Dad. My other blog is Your Family Geek where I cover a variety of geek related subjects. Check them out if you feel so inclined.