This morning I took my shaggy-haired Patrick to get a haircut. He was starting to look like one of the Beatles, during the “I Am the Walrus” era, and before he began mumbling “goo goo go joob” in his sleep, I figured it was time to take action!
I could probably cut Patrick’s hair myself, but an occasional trip to the salon is one of those luxuries that everyone deserves to enjoy. It’s so important that Patrick has normalizing experiences such as this, which is why I’ve gone out of my way to provide them. For instance, when he first came home and was living with his parents, he was in sweatpants and old t-shirts every day. The practicality of it made sense; he needed help getting dressed and going to the bathroom, which made lose clothing with elastic waistbands ideal. But I went shopping anyway, figuring that while I couldn’t fix his brain injury, I could at least help him feel less down-and-out. At the time I’m sure it appeared like a stupid idea, and maybe it was, but when I came back with new clothes, I immediately saw a change in his affect. I realized then what I already knew instinctively: that it’s the little things that often help a person reconnect with their humanity.
Going to the hair-salon is an awesome experience for us both. We’ve been going for two years, so the employees have seen Patrick at various phases of recovery. Living with TBI 24/7, it can be tough for me to see the changes in him at this point. It’s like trying to watch a flower grow, without ever taking your eyes off of it. However, the faces of those who haven’t seen Patrick in months, easily become the mirror in which I am able to see the growth again. I watch them light up with surprise at the sight of him, and my heart floods with a rush of gratitude, for the fresh perspective provided.
The other reason we love going to the salon, is our hairdresser, Annie. Our relationship with Annie goes back 4 years, and was truly serendipitous. Back in 2012, on the last night of my bi-coastal tour, Patrick appeared at the concert, like a ghost, after an 8 year absence in my life. (That was a hard show to play btw; talk about jitters!) A few weeks later, we agreed to meet for coffee at a Starbucks. It was no coincidence that on that morning, I decided to spruce myself up a bit (or… a lot a bit). Having never frequented salons, I wandered into the nearest one I could find, as a walk-in. A few moments later, I was placed in Annie’s chair.
As she cut and styled my hair, I began to confide in her about my life. Bubbling over with romantic butterflies, I told her about where I was going, and more importantly, who I was going to meet. She gave me some great advice, plus the best hair-cut I’d ever had, and from that day on became my official hair-dresser.
Six months from our initial meeting, she cut my hair again, and this time I brought the man whom I had gushed over, with me. Fast forward to another 6 months, and I was back in her chair, but separated from Patrick, and terribly heart-broken. I unburdened my heart as she took the weight off my hair, and then walked out the door, never knowing that the next time I would see her, everything would be tragically different. Another 6 months passed, and I ran into Annie at the church where I play music every Sunday. Coincidentally, she’d been attending that church for years, without ever realizing that it was me at the piano. She walked up to me, immediately seeing Patrick, who was wheelchair-bound, wearing a helmet, and badly dysarthric, and then looked back at me. She was speechless. I’ll never forget her face. Looking back on it all, it’s like I can mark the significant moments of my relationship with Patrick, by the times I sat in Annie’s chair.
There was a rather beautiful feeling of coming full-circle today, as Patrick sat in Annie’c chair. It’s been roughly two years since that day she saw us in church, and in that time, she has become so much more than just a hairdresser to us. She is our dear friend and has helped us immensely. Annie was the one who carefully trimmed Patrick’s hair when he had no skull. She buzzed his head before surgery last summer. She gave him his first haircut after his synthetic skull was put in. In fact, she’s the only one that Patrick trusts to touch his head besides me. Every time we see her, she remarks on the miracle of his recovery, and how well he is doing.
It’s amazing sometimes, to think back to that first day that I met Annie, and imagine what I would’ve said if I had known all that was to come. Would I have still driven to Starbucks? The answer, of course is yes. Because while it’s no secret that TBI has robbed us of so much, it truthfully has also brought us gifts. One of those gifts, is its ability to take the ordinary and turn it into something remarkable. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, that TBI reveals the magical nature, of what most of us have become numb to feel and blind to see. It’s the simplest things like breathing, speaking, or showing emotion. It’s appreciating the majesty of the human body as it relearns how to move.
And it’s the privileges that we usually take for granted, that become something to rejoice in. Like a trip to the movies. Or the ability to calculate the tip on a bill, without help. Or walking a block in the sunshine holding hands.
Or even… a haircut.