Thursday, April 12, 2012

The end of a shaving era

Gumpy's electric razor finally stopped working a few weeks ago.  It was a decent razor.  Nothing fancy, just a plain electric razor with a small trimmer.   It couldn't have cost more than $40 but it was always good for a decent, quick shave. 

So it's back to the disposable razors that seem to last for two shaves before my baby face painfully lets me know I need to get a new razor.  Regardless of shaving implement, I still chuckle a little every time I shave thinking about Gumpy.

Any discussion about my grandfather and shaving has to start with his mustache.  He loved that mouse-pelt under his nose.  When I was a kid he favored the handlebar look, complete with goose grease, otherwise known as mustache wax to those outside the family.  As he got older, the mustache transitioned from a Rollie Fingers-esque creation to something more subdued.  Every so often, he would talk about trimming it off for good but he kept the mustache for at least 35 years. 

The mustache was more than just facial hair, it was the mark of a man who knew that a well-kept appearance was key to being successful in whatever someone wanted to do.  And God had given him one body to take care of during his time on Earth, so it was part of his covenant with God to keep a neat appearance. 

Staying true to that covenant led to the first time I remember feeling that I was finally able to help him.  He was in the Cleveland Clinic recovering from heart valve surgery and my sister and I drove out to visit.  We arrived during a heated discussion between my grandparents about what Gumpy would eat for lunch.  Ema insisted he eat the fried chicken and Gumpy insisted she was trying to make him worse by feeding him chicken.

When the peanut butter sandwich arrived and he ate a bit, we were able to talk Ema into taking a break from her diligent care giving.  That is when Gumpy asked me to help him shave.  That little electric razor, the same one that recently gave its life trying to fight through my stubble, was charged up and ready for the task.  But Gumpy had been sick for months before his surgery and was a little too weak to get the job done without some help.

I don't remember the old boy ever having a beard, just the mustache.  He disliked the way stubble felt on his neck, so he was vigilant in his daily shaving routine.  We started there and finished the job in a few minutes, leaving the mustache in tact for trimming later. 

As I finished, you could tell he felt like a new man.  He felt just a little more normal that afternoon.  He felt like he was doing his best to keep his covenant.  And I felt like I was finally able to do something meaningful for Gumpy. 

When he passed away a few years later, Ema asked me if I wanted the razor.  As a practical matter, I really needed one at the time.  Disposable razors are expensive, especially when you have a baby face like mine, so part of me was happy for the gift.  And the razor could be looked at as a good allegory for his life.  Dependable, easy going, great at what it was designed to do and purposeful.  So I accepted it without hesitation and did what any good Midwestern grandson would do with it.  I shaved regularly.

Alas, now it is time to purchase a new razor.  I think I might spend a few extra bucks and get something a little fancier.  Maybe one with a trimmer that always works.  Or maybe one designed to help men with sensitive skin keep from feeling like another layer of face has been removed. 

I am going to miss that little razor.