I have been growing out my hair for a year. Twelve months worth of effort has not produced any Rapunzel-like locks, not that I was expecting any. In fact, if my hair was an employee, I would fire its ass for its lank character, paucity of body, dearth of shine, and failure to be a team player.
For ten years I regularly went to a stylist. Jeff was darn good at cutting and coloring hair, but he was pricey. Then a year ago, I decided to ditch the cuts and the pigments, and began the mentally painful process of growing out my hair. This decision was prompted mostly by economic necessity, but also because I was tired of the same 'ol, same 'ol and ready for a change. Twelve months ago, my hair was very short and a warm red shade. Now, the longest layers just barely brush the top of my shoulders, and the expensive red color with its subtle blonde highlights has become an ugly, mousy brown. As bad as my hair is by itself, I have enough skill with various styling implements to make it look presentable, not great, but presentable.
My mother, on the other hand, can't fix her hair to save her life. Naturally, being blind she can't fix it now, but when she was my age and younger, even, she was helpless.
It all began when Mom hit the big 4 - 0. I was not quite seven. I'm only guessing here, but my mother must have had a mid-life crisis because one day, I came home from school and the lady that used to be my mother had disappeared and another lady had taken her place. Mother #1, had dark brown hair that she pin curled in a short bob. Mother #2 had a professionally done frosted blonde bouffant.
Instead of doing the sensible thing and learning how to fix her hair, Mom chose to make a standing appointment with her hairdresser for a set and comb out every Friday morning. As a little kid, I thought it was very glamorous and liked going to the salon and watching the stylists work their magic. I remember a brief period, exciting, but brief, when customers with bad split ends had them burned off. Bear in mind that this was back when sky high teasing and backcombing were de rigueur. The stylist would tightly twist a hank of hair into a rope, forcing the numerous little broken ends to stick out. Then, working quickly so she didn't set her customer ablaze like a Molotov cocktail, she would run a flame up and down the length of the hair rope, singeing off the split and broken ends. I would watch in fascinated horror, feet ready to bolt for the door and safety, in case somebody did catch on fire, and shambled to me looking to be put out.
By my calculations, my mother has been getting her hair done every week for 47 years. This is 2,444 sets and comb outs. Assuming $10.00 a week, just for the sake of argument, that's over $24,000.00 spent. When you factor in inflation, perms, hair colorings, haircuts, tips and Christmas bonuses, I would hazard a guesstimate that Mom has spent twice that over the years. No wonder I never got a car when I was old enough to drive.
And it wasn't just the money that was spent. There were other things, too, all aimed at keeping her 'do looking as fresh as a daisy between salon visits. For starters, Mom would sleep on her stomach, head propped on crossed arms like she was sunbathing, only in bed and in the dark. This position was supposed to eliminate morning bedhead, but I think all it did was give her colossal neck and shoulder pains, not to mention a bad case of the grumps from poor quality sleep. Another bedtime trick was sleeping on a satin pillowcase because the slippery surface was supposed to cut down on friction. I tried napping on it once and was not able to do it; my head wouldn't stay put and slid all over the place. But the real kicker was that Mom was reduced to washing her hair once a week. It is unfathomable to me how anyone can go a solid week between shampoos, especially in the heat of summer, and most especially in Houston's heat and humidity. Sorry, Mom, but that's just plain gross.
My mother became so dependent on these weekly trips, she was no longer capable of fixing and styling her own hair. I mean that, literally, and I'll tell you a story to prove it. It's like she devolved, or something.
One summer, we had a family reunion at my uncle's home in New Mexico. It was the year I turned 25, so this means my mother would have had some 900+ salon visits under her belt at the time. My uncle had a big backyard pool, and this was where we spent most of our days. Late one afternoon, very early into our visit, my mother and aunts were in their suits standing in the shallow end and talking, when my uncle, always the practical joker, dumped a bucket of water on his sister-in-law's perfectly coiffed hair. He had no way of knowing that he had just opened a giant can of whoop-ass, but I sure did. I sucked in a breath and immediately assumed the hunkered down, arms-over-the-head position taught to those of us who went to school during the Cold War:
I could tell Mom was boiling mad, but to her credit, she didn't make a scene and, in all fairness, she was in the pool and game for any wayward H20 molecules. After the situation was explained my uncle apologized profusely, but the damage was done. My mother was now faced with two choices: go the rest of the visit with her hair covered in a kerchief, or make an appointment at a local salon to get the mess fixed. She opted to get it fixed and of course, it didn't turn out looking anything the way she liked her hair to look, and that put her in a bit of a temper for the rest of our stay. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was, a grown woman incapable of fixing her own hair.
Lately, Mom has been saying that maybe it's time to stop the weekly visits and get a wig. I am all for this idea. With the money saved, she could finally buy me that car!
"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." ---Benjamin Franklin.
So help me, I've found another great way to waste time: Pinterest. And like a record when the needle gets stuck, that quote keeps playing in the back of my mind, causing all kinds of guilty feelings for not doing something more productive with my life, like maybe alphabetizing the spice rack, or polishing the silver.
According to Wikipedia, "Pinterest is a pinboard styled social photo sharing website. The service allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections." It's not a photo sharing site in the tradition of Flickr or SmugMug, where users upload pictures of the family pets, kids and vacations. Pinterest users create virtual bulletin boards of things that interest them. One board might be full of recipes. Others might showcase craft projects or home decor or fashion, whatever happens to float a user's boat. With a tool called the bookmarklet, a user can go on any website and "pin" or bookmark something of interest from the site and place it on her bulletin board. (I say "her" because a website like Pinterest would appeal to women far more than men.) The bookmarklet automatically credits the website; I guess to keep one party from accusing the other of stealing.
One of my boards is a collection of wedding ideas. (My husband, if he had a Pinterest account, would probably have a board devoted to elopement ideas: a picture of a suitcase, a gassed-up car, a Las Vegas wedding chapel with Elvis as the minister.) That being said, my kids are a long ways from marriage, or even thinking about tying the knot. The oldest, who's not quite 25, has gone on record as saying anyone who gets married before the age of 30 is stupid, so it looks like we are in for a long wait there. The middle kiddo is going straight into the Army after he graduates from Texas A&M, and while marriage and the military are not mutually exclusive, that kind of life does make it hard to date and settle down. As for the youngest, and it's mainly for her that I've started this bulletin board, she's only a college freshman. But hey! a mother can dream, can't she?
Another board is DIY stuff and craft ideas, which, if you knew me, is a laugh. I have very little patience and my own thumbs oppose me every chance they get, but I like to imagine myself as the neighborhood Martha Stewart. In fact, I'm getting together with a friend tomorrow to try a Christmas ornament craft we both saw on Pinterest. If our endeavors aren't too shabby, I'll take some pictures for a possible future blog. (Update: our efforts didn't look anything like the picture promised, just like my holiday dinner tables never look like the pictures in Southern Living magazine.)
Since joining the site last week, I've pinned several recipes, including two that require baking; the kind of baking that needs measuring and sifting and beating. I don't like preparing food that requires a chemistry degree, but I pinned them anyway because they look pretty on my food board. The other recipes fall into the handful of this, pinch of that category; in other words, the kind of haphazard cooking that has been my game for 31 years. Being that I'm in one of my periodic what-to-fix-for-dinner ruts, I'm anxious to try these out. I hope they taste as good as they look. (Update: one recipe, called Crack Bread, because it's supposed to be addictive, was just plain awful. I don't know how it's possible for a recipe that features bacon and cheese to be awful, but trust me, if you see this recipe on Pinterest, do not attempt it, no matter how much the picture sucks you in.)
Despite the setbacks, I love this site because when it comes to ideas, I have none of my own. I am in awe of people who can take something mundane and transform it into something extraordinary, or give it a usefulness no one else has thought of. Sometimes, I will piggyback off another person's idea by adding my own little twist, but I'm just too literal minded to see the possibilities in things. When I see a wine rack, I see a wine rack, not a handy-dandy bathroom towel holder. I am not good at thinking outside the box.
The clock in the lower right-hand corner of my computer tells me it is well after midnight. Again. And I am reminded of another of Franklin's wise sayings: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
We have really bad vision in my family. I was reminded of this recently, not that I need any reminders, while shredding some old files for my mother.
To support this statement, I offer the above two exhibits. On the left, Exhibit A, is a list of all the bills my parents paid in January, 2003. Exhibit B, on the right, is another list of bills paid in January, 2004, exactly one year later. That is my mother's handwriting you see on both pages and, despite what it looks like, I can assure you she was not several sheets to the wind while she was writing the second one.
I remember, as a kid, squinting at my mother's cursive writing and trying my darnedest to decipher it. It looked nothing like the loopy Palmer Method script I was taught in third grade. Her handwriting was distinctive; so much so, that I blame it for the reason I quit believing in Santa Claus. One Christmas morning, when I was seven or thereabouts, it suddenly occurred to me that Santa's writing on his thank-you note for his annual Christmas Eve treat of cookies and Diet Rite cola looked suspiciously like my mother's. Ditto the writing on the gift tags attached to the presents that were supposed to be from the jolly fat man. Now that I think on it, the diet soda was another dead giveaway.
Anyway, I'm digressing. The cause of Mom's sudden poor eyesight was age related macular degeneration (AMD). The macula is the part of the eye responsible for close-up or central vision; the kind of vision we use to read, drive, pick the pretzels out of the Chex Mix, type blogs, and so forth. There are two types of AMD. The "dry" version is caused by an accumulation of deposits called drusen in the macula. In the "wet" version, the most severe form, blood vessels grow and leak. People with AMD have their peripheral vision, so they are not completely blind, but their central vision is obscured.
My father was the first to be diagnosed with AMD. His disease progressed very slowly, so slowly in fact, that he was able to read, drive, and spelunk through the Chex Mix for years with little or no trouble. My mother's AMD, as evidenced by the Exhibits above, hit her like the proverbial sledgehammer. AMD is believed to have a strong hereditary component and this must be true, because my father's sister and brother were both diagnosed with it. To add insult to injury, my MIL also had AMD. If the geneticists are right, this means my kids and I should be eating truckloads of carrots every week.
When Mom told us about her AMD, Richard and I immediately encouraged my parents to move to Dallas. They knew it was the right thing to do, but they resisted for a number of reasons: they didn't want to be a burden (as if dropping everything to make unscheduled trips to Houston to help them wasn't a burden), they didn't want to leave their home, they didn't want to leave their friends (who they hardly ever saw anymore due to their increasing isolation), and they just couldn't face the stress of a major move. It was an accident that finally forced their hand. My father ran a red light, one he did not see because of his poor vision, and hit a family, including a pregnant woman, riding in a pickup truck. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it scared the bejabbers out of my parents, as it should have.
When my MIL was alive, she would compensate for her bad sight by stepping into my personal space, that area we humans psychologically claim as ours. I would take a corresponding step backwards to reclaim my territory, and she, of course, would march right back into it. One evening, about ten minutes into this weird little tango, it dawned on me why she was doing this. She's trying to see my face! D'oh! Thereafter, for her sake, I would hold my ground, but it was an uncomfortable business sometimes. My MIL would be yakking away on some topic, oblivious of my discomfort, and it would take everything I had in me not to run screaming in the other direction. I liked my MIL just fine, and we got along well; I just don't care for conversation at such close range I can count the fillings in the other person's mouth.
We have a family card game, a variation of gin rummy, aptly called "Frustration". Every kid born on my side of the family tree is taught to play as soon as he or she is sick of Old Maid or Go Fish. My dad loved this game, and he never let his blindness get in the way of an evening spent playing cards. We used two special card decks we ordered from an on-line low vision store and those, coupled with a fantastic memory, kept him beating the rest of us game after game. I often thought if Daddy had applied himself, he could have done well counting cards at blackjack, back when he could see, of course, but he never did care to gamble.
These days, Mom and I --- her faithful seeing eye dog --- have fallen into a weekly routine. I take her to her doctor appointments, of which there are many. Help her with her grocery shopping, drop her off at the beauty salon, the nail salon, pay her bills, handle her correspondence, take her to lunch or dinner occasionally, and patiently listen to her reminisce about how much better things were in the good old days. I feel desperately sorry for her and wish there was something that could be done to improve her vision, even just a little bit, but she is far beyond any of the available treatments.
Given my age and the lousy gene pool I'm swimming in (my kids are young enough that they are just dipping their toes), I hope that someone, somewhere is able to come up with a cure soon or, if not that, at least better treatments. Honestly, I worry about this more than I worry about getting cancer, and for good reason: I am very nearly stone deaf. Believe me, I would not make a very inspiring 21st century version of Helen Keller.
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