Friday, June 22, 2007

A Tribute to a Nice Man

I've been going to the same hairdresser for about thirty years, since I was a kid. Of course, when I moved to North Carolina, I did get my hair cut by others, the way you have to. Every time I planned a trip back up here, though, I would time my haircuts down there so I'd be due for one during my trip, so that I could include a visit to Karl as part of the visit. In years of change, of moves and jobs and life-altering whatevers, there's always been Karl.

Until this week, when I went in to the salon for a routine cut and was gently told that he passed away two weeks ago, pretty suddenly. He wasn't old, not at all, but his health hadn't been great recently. The illness was unexpected, I gather, and even then they thought he was going to recover, but he didn't.

The people in your life, you know? In some ways, I didn't know Karl very well. But in others, he was such a regular part of my life, for so long, and I'm in tears to think that I'll never see him again. I drove there thinking how we'd talk about the new Bruins coach, and he wasn't there.

Instead I sat in the wrong chair, and Judy cut my hair, and we both sniffled part of the time, and laughed a little, and agreed that it would be slightly easier next time. She's having to tell everyone, of course, and that must keep the pain fresh all the time, as if it wouldn't be hard enough, I mean she's worked with him for twenty-some years, too. She said she'd tried to call, but she just couldn't, she didn't want to call and break the news to me when I was at work, nor did she want to leave a message on my answering machine. Understandable, and I'm not blaming her, but it was quite a shock. Still, of course it would have been a shock no matter how I found out.

When I was a kid, my mother went to a few different hairdressers that I vaguely remember before she found Karl. She liked what he did with her hair, and mine I suppose (I was too young to have a say in it), and we followed him when he moved to a different salon, this one. He suffered patiently through my years of cut it off/grow it out indecision. (When I moved back from NC, the first time I went in, he asked, "Are we growing it out?") He understood when I got the rag-top and wanted "top-down hair", hair short enough that it wasn't in my eyes no matter how fast I went with the top down. We had an understanding in terms of "product": he could put in whatever he wanted, mousse or gel or spray or all of them, and blow dry or whatever, and he'd pretend not to know that I was going to go home, sleep on it that night, and shower it all out in the morning, then never do any of it myself (I'm low-maintenance-girl, and only own a hair dryer for the coldest winter days).

He knew my hair, what to do with it, what it will do and what it won't, better than I do. (I was almost startled when Judy wanted to talk about my hair: oh, right, that makes sense, that's logical, she hasn't cut it before.) He was a really good hairdresser; he never gave me a bad haircut, not once, never did one thing that made me think I should look around, never pressured me to do anything, never did anything but listen to what I wanted and gave it to me. (When the thought crossed my mind, I tried not to think about how he'd probably retire one day, you know, in ten years or something. What would I do then? How would I find someone else who could do what he did for my hair? And what would I talk to that person about? It wouldn't be the same.)

He was just nice. He could tell if you wanted to have a conversation, be talked to, or sit quietly. He was interested in various sports, not just hockey, but he would talk mostly about hockey to me since that's my primary sports interest (obviously). I don't get that many in-depth hockey talks, so it was a treat. He watched a lot of movies, so I could count on him for reviews. He'd often tell me about TV shows that I should watch, like How It's Made, or Two and a Half Men, which he'd told me at least twice that I should be watching. He always had real groaners of jokes (my favorite kind).

He was only 60, so when we first started going to him, he was younger than I am now.

I'm really going to miss him. Rest in Peace, Karl.


Blogger Kali said...

What a nice memorial for be remembered after you are gone is a very good thing, indeed. It feels like his life mattered to more than his family.

I am always amazed when I come across people from my distant past and they remember me. After death I have no illusions about my long-term memory. If someone remembers something good because of me, even if they don't remember "me," well, that is good enough for my soul to be pleased.

9:16 AM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous MonicaPDX said...

Lovely tribute, ccr. And lovely he had you for a customer and a friend. ::hugs::

1:52 PM, June 25, 2007  

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