Looking in the mirror, I gasped. Under my chin was a long, dark hair. I reached for my tweezers.
As I tried to get the fine, single hair in a metallic pincer grasp, I remembered a phone conversation I once had with my mother.
My ninety-year old Grandma lived in an assisted living apartment, but she insisted she did not need any assistance. She wanted to be self-sufficient, just as she had always been. Her eyesight, however, was not cooperating. Her washed dishes were not as clean as they used to be. Dust, which never would have been tolerated in her younger years, collected on the antique furniture. She couldn’t see the fine, white hairs on her chin. “I want to pluck them for her!” Mom told me. Such a simple thing, and yet so difficult to bring up to Grandma.
Grandma was a stoic woman. She did not express emotions easily. When I saw her, I would hug her bony frame gently and tell her I loved her. “Mmm-hmmm,” she would say. As the family gathered around my dying grandfather’s bedside, tears flowed freely–except from Grandma. She wanted to explain herself. “I do feel sad, I just don’t cry,” she told me.
Growing up with stiff, seemingly unloving parents had been difficult for Mom. In her sixties, she was still intimidated by her own mother. But those long, white hairs on my grandmother’s chin bothered her. Every time Mom drove Grandma to get her hair done, or to the acupuncturist, or to buy groceries, she just wanted to pluck out them out! She was afraid, however, that she would offend Grandma if she brought it up.
A couple of days later, I heard from Mom again. “I did it!” she said.
“What did Grandma say?” I asked.
“She told me to never let her go out with chin hairs again!” Mom was relieved that Grandma had accepted her help.
Three years ago, just a couple of days after Thanksgiving, Grandma sat stoically in a chair. Her back was as straight as usual, her hands were folded in her lap. Staring at the casket in front of her, she did not have a tear in her eye. We all knew she was mourning her daughter in her own way.
Just three months later, we were saying goodbye to Grandma, each in our own way.
I stared in the mirror, wishing Mom had grown old. Wishing her eyesight had failed, her hands had grown shaky, so that I could pluck out her chin hairs for her.
I plucked; tears filled my eyes at the sudden pain. Too many tears for such a small, errant hair.