Jacob made the mistake of saying the words “crew cut” within hearing of the man with the clippers.
“Everybody has a bad haircut story,” I told him. “Now you have yours.”
What made the whole thing ironic is that Jacob had just been to a conference from which he took away the importance of vulnerability.
“Failure is an event, not a person,” he told me, repeating a Zig Ziglar quote one of the speakers had used.
“Exactly,” I said, pointing to his head.
Every disaster, whether large or small, brings us to a crossroads. One path pretends the problem never happened and hides the challenge from all the other travelers. The other path is vulnerability and sharing the struggle.
My mother taught me the importance of vulnerability. I remember watching her after her breast cancer surgery. She had a full radical mastectomy back in the days when the plastic surgeons weren’t inserting inflatable boobs even before the radiation treatments.
Her prosthesis was external, a little mass of weighted jell that fit into her bra.
Which she got tired of and did without after some years.
My mother was not defined by her breasts.
Or her breast cancer.
She went to visit women who had had mastectomies before they left the hospital and faced the world.
“This does not define you,” she told them.
And she lived, a walking testament to life after breast cancer.
That open-ness, that vulnerability, helped me to start writing about her and her Alzheimer’s.
I think if she had fully understood, if her brain had not been fogged by dementia, she would freely given her blessing to the whole thing.
“Write about the incontinence,” she would have said. “Maybe it will help somebody else going through the same thing.”
She would laugh and say, “Write about that time when I tried to walk the two miles into town because no one would believe me that I needed to go to a meeting.” I walked with her, and Helen came to pick us up.
“Write about the funny things I said. And how you had to show me that underwear went on first, before the pants. Write about the marmalade.”
It’s not dishonoring to use tough situations so that others know they are not alone in what they are experiencing.
Quite the opposite.
It is most honoring.
I think she would be pleased.