Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Memoriam

When Ben's hair began to grow in as a baby, it became clear that the poor kid would have a life-long wrestling match on his hands.  With two cowlicks swirling into each other on the back of his head, his mane was destined to defy gravity.  We began using product on his hair long before his first birthday, but I'm pleased to report that, after four years of gelling and brushing and plying, his hair will generally succumb to our demands.

This reluctant cooperation of his locks is only feasible with the right haircut, however, and we knew this would be the case early on.  We took Ben to see Josh's barber when Ben was just 10 months old, and  "Mr. Irv" pronounced immediately how unfortunate it was that Ben got Josh's hair.  He did manage to cut it in such a way that we had some ability to control it, putting Ben's soft baby fuzz in an envelope for us to save.  And so Josh and Ben have been visiting Mr. Irv every four to six weeks since.  I think Irv has had a quip about the unfortunate display of genetics every time.

Seeing Mr. Irv was the first tradition that belonged to Daddy alone.  On the Saturday mornings they had an appointment, Josh and Ben would eat a quick breakfast and then hop into the Mini to drive down the mountain to his shop in Lakewood.  They'd chat with Irv once there, taking turns in the barber's chair.  With Ben, Irv was quick, patient, engaging, and kind.  With Irv, Ben was comfortable, chatty, patient, and still.  Folks often commented on how well behaved Ben was in the chair, and Josh and I gave silent thanks for the way Irv made our son feel at ease and welcome.  After haircuts, Daddy and son got doughnuts to celebrate their time together before meeting me and, eventually, Abby wherever our adventures had taken us.

Going to see Mr. Irv became an event, an outing, special "guy time" for Ben to enjoy with his daddy and Mr. Irv--a ritual embodying the quintessential community and male mystique of the proverbial barber shop.

Toward the end of February, Josh called Irv to make an appointment and couldn't get ahold of him.  Josh tried calling all week to no avail and finally gave up, assuming Irv had gone out of town to care for his mother, whom he visits often.  Josh and Ben had their haircuts elsewhere, and we assumed that whatever had taken Irv out of town would be resolved by the next appointment.  Yesterday, however, Josh tried calling again to make appointments for Saturday, and the number had been disconnected.  This strange turn of events prompted Josh to run a search on-line, where he discovered Irv's obituary.

Our beloved Mr. Irv passed away on January 30th, 2010.  There was no mention of cause, so we are left wondering what happened.  Josh sent me the link to his obituary yesterday afternoon with a short note that said, "This makes me sad."

It makes me sad, too.  It's not that Irv was an integral part of our family, but he was a consistent one, a kind one, a friendly and familiar fixture in our family's life.  Josh has been visiting him for over seven years, and there are few other people outside of family and close friends who have participated in Ben's life so regularly since the beginning.  Ben loves Mr. Irv.  Irv loved Ben well.

I'm sure Josh and Ben will find another barber shop to visit on Saturday mornings, and I'm certain they'll continue their doughnut tradition.  But it will be different.  There aren't as many places in the world where people care to know, really know, a man and his son.

Josh asked to be the one to tell Ben about this loss, but after getting home late last night, he hasn't yet had an opportunity to have the conversation.  I wonder how Ben will receive the news.  He'll have a dozen questions, I'm sure; unfortunately, we won't have many answers.  This will be his first experience with the death of a person, and while he will probably make lots of connections to our cat Kashmir's death, this is bound to be different.  I imagine he'll have some profoundly simple insights into this sudden absence.  I can't help but wonder if he'll cry.

I'm struck by how wide a person's circle of influence is, how deep the impact of one's goodness runs.  Several times over the last twenty-four hours, I have grown teary at the thought that this man is gone from us.  I suppose that is the beauty of a life well-lived and genuinely shared, no matter the capacity: you occupy a place in another's heart that cannot be otherwise filled.

We'll miss you, Mr. Irv.  

1 comment:

  1. Please contact me, I am Irv's daughter, Nancy Rodriguez Chidester on Facebook. Thanks. P.S. I love your story and the photo :)


I love comments!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin