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I taught my son to shave today.

He’s a senior in high school, and he is going to have his senior photos taken this afternoon. He only has a little fuzz on his cheeks, more so on his neck, some on his upper lip, but it’s still a complicated thing, teaching a young man to shave. All those nooks and crannies, the bends, the tender, exposed skin.


His dad was supposed to be the one to teach him – but his dad is no longer with us. He died, from ALS, just last December. My son was, at a very young age, forced to care for his dad instead of the other way around. His father’s dementia was already too far progressed by the time the fuzz appeared; he couldn’t even shave himself without assistance. We have been avoiding this very moment, letting the fuzz grow unchecked, refusing to worry about how it looked, dreading this day that has finally come.


I taught my son to shave today.


Neither of us wanted to acknowledge the loss, the import of this occasion, that I was the wrong person for the job. We were both silent as I filled the sink with scalding water, took the cover off the razor, and put the shave cream in his hand. I began to shave him quietly, the carefully delivered first instructions hanging in the air between us. I did my best not to look him in the eye, and he did the same. I think we both feared acknowledging our loss, just wanting to get through this moment.


We finished quickly; there were no arguments, no frustration, no apparent knicks or cuts. Neither were there any photos, no jokes, no advice for future shaves or teasing about how long it would be before he needed to shave again, like there were when my husband taught his older brothers.


I taught my son to shave today.


This moment punctuated our loss like no other moment yet has. It wasn’t supposed to be me. My son wasn’t supposed to have to lose his dad so soon. His senior photos will forever be a reminder that it was me, not his dad, who taught him how to shave. We bought the smallest package possible of photos, neither of us looking forward to that moment when we see them, and reality hits again. We will, both of us, always hold this loss silently between us.


I taught my son to shave today.

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3 Comments


Guest
Oct 28, 2023

what a gift for you and your son - so much love wrapped up in that poignant moment.

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Guest
Oct 22, 2023

Beautiful, poignant, and familiar. Big hugs to you, and your son.

~Jenny

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The Juan and Only
The Juan and Only
Oct 20, 2023

As a father living with ALS, I so appreciate what you shared. I truly cherish the moments that I can impart my experiences with my children. Thank you

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