I have Midwestern hair. It’s long and wavy and eminently traditional…one could say it’s pioneer hair but with cleaner roots. It’s not dyed or highlighted or permed or straightened. I do not tease it, nor gel it, nor spray it nor blow dry it. My hair has never been promised a more glamorous life as a bleach blonde. It’s never been too short, or too long. It has never made me late to either dinner or to breakfast.
My hair does not vociferously complain that it spends most of its time in a ponytail, twist, or braid. It waits patiently for the moments when I leave it free from elastic prisons to fall across my shoulders. It only occasionally throws a tantrum known as a bad hair day, which generally results as a protest against humidity. My hair and I declared detente long ago — I do not expect great feats of it, nor it of me.
You could, perhaps, say that my hair has good Midwestern values. I try not to push it too far, nor ask too much…since it didn’t ask to be transported to the big city of San Francisco. It resists being paraded around, asked to masquerade as something more complex and sophisticated than its true nature. It grounds me back to my roots, as it were…here in the Midwest with the other simple-haired people.
My hair does not care to blend in, or to try too hard.
Grandfathers are gifts to humanity, who blend into the landscapes of everyday life. They’re the men who put new roofs on churches, who quietly cover for family dysfunction. They’re the signalmen of emotion – they’d rather fix your car than tell you that they love you, but both actions mean the same thing. Long on actions and short on words, their signals are drowned in a society where words mean everything and yet nothing actually gets accomplished. Grandfathers are the antitheses of the modern man.
Grandfathers use ladders to climb to the top of trees, to pick cherries to share with you — they throw these cherries like offerings of love from the tree, into the depths of the pool, where you can pull them from the deep and they taste so much sweeter because of the work, the love. Grandfathers travel thousands of miles to find dead sons, and still have the courage to speak at funerals. They memorize “the work” and “the verse” and hold both the Church and the Community in the most sacred regard.
Grandfathers know their neighbors, because they bring them food in times of need, and help them celebrate in times of happiness. They put new windows into the house when they’re needed, even if they’ve never put in windows before. They prop up the foundations of the house using simple tools, after everything seems lost. Grandfathers are the quiet, the strong piers and posts of our lives that show us what it’s like to be a better, more self-sufficient person.
With no kids nor hope of any, and with no plans to change my gender…I aspire to embody the spirit of grandfathers. To be someone else’s silent signalman of strength and capability. To help someone else, to add fuel to the Light and remove the Darkness in the world.
I can’t imagine a better life goal, a gift to the world.