Hesitantly, he opened his eyes after lying back in an indescribably warm and comforting darkness that he wasn’t quite ready to see come to an end. The old man’s hands removed the hot towel from his face and began to massage it with a stiff brush while something that smelled like his father’s dopp kit began to envelope his senses. He would come to long for that smell for years to follow. The man’s long, bony fingers that were once shaky and unsteady, took rapid, steady strokes of a gleaming and dangerously sharp blade, tracing the curves of his face. This was little Will’s first shave. No, he wasn’t old enough to actually need a shave. In fact, he was only nine years old, but he sure felt like a man that was ready to conquer the world. His father brought him to their small town’s favorite barber. The same barber that his own father took him to around the same age. Will had excited conversations simultaneously with the barber and his father about what he was going to do this summer. He informed them that he made it his mission to make the BEST lemonade stand the neighborhood had to offer, and savvy as ever, he’d mark it a penny less than all the other boys, sure to win over ALL of the customers, even the little girls that carried dolls as if they were actual babies and swore they hated boys. If he could earn five dollars by the end of summer, his pops would let him buy “that doggie in the window”. No, it wasn’t the one with the waggly tail. Much like Will, it was the scrawny one that walked a little funny and had to fight extra hard to get his fair share of food…but little Will knew that this was the one for him and that they’d go on exciting adventures together. “Martin”, he informed the barber and his father that the pup’s name would be, would be able to play fetch, roll over, and get the newspaper without leaving bite marks or disturbing the crate full of milk on the front step. But most of all, Martin and Will would be best friends, inseparable and they would go on endless travels together all summer long. That day wasn’t really about a shave. It was about building a bond between a father and his son. A rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. Will didn’t know then how much that day would shape who he would become…A future entrepreneur with a fine ability to make the right choices in life, I have no doubt.
My own memory of myself and my father, interestingly enough, happened in my ninth year as well. I was riding my bike that my dad had attached a really cool megaphone that had a siren on it, perfect for annoying my mom and all the other parents on our street. In my mind, it had circus stripes and a lion’s head just like Pee-Wee had, but it was actually just black and cheaply made. I had just wrapped up my summer’s first expedition and I admit that I went a little further than I was really allowed to. Who could really blame me? I had just finished a book about TINY aliens that you could find in mounds of dirt, and I just knew that if took my bike to the mounds of dirt just a little further than I was supposed to be, I would make the first discovery and my dad would be so proud that he wouldn’t really care that I broke the rules. Unfortunately, when you’re a nine year old boy on a mission to change the world, you forget piddly little things like getting home in time to eat the yucky vegetables that your mom and dad would undoubtedly force you to eat. Well, at least if you wanted ice cream before bedtime. So, of course, I had to race home, and as I sped down the hill to get home on time, the megaphone fell from the handlebar of my bike, throwing me off just two houses from where I lived and of course, breaking my new toy. My dad was in front of our house, cleaning the bugshield on his new motorcycle, and looking back now, I think maybe he noticed a connection. Surely, this close to dinner, he should have been inside as well, but he was playing with his new toy later than he should have been. I limped my bike up to him, tears streaming down my scraped cheeks, and told him that I broke my new toy. I was so afraid I would get in big trouble. I was, after all, an Army brat, and Strict was my father’s middle name. With one pinched tightly shut and the other not making direct contact, I waited to hear what my fate was going to be. He just laughed….a laugh that I can still hear today, and in fact, brings a tear to my eye right now. “Andy,” he said calmly, as he crouched to my level, “It’s just a toy. As long as you’re ok, I’m ok.” Before my shocked little mind could really absorb what had just fallen from his lips, he exclaimed, “Hey! What do you say we take a ride to the lake on my motorcycle. Just you and me?”. Needless to say, it took no time for me to run my bike into its home in the garage and fly back to my dad, asking if I could hold on tightly to him, because I was a little afraid, but oh so excited. We rode through the lake, slowly, taking our time. If you asked me, I’d swear that we were gone for hours, from sunup to sundown, but I’m sure it was closer to a half hour or so. The cicadas were singing, fireflies were coming out and dancing in the trees, and I was alone with my dad. We didn’t have a lot of those moments, but this one is as vivid to me as the day I was married. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that we hit a speed bump, falling sideways, and narrowly escaping the loss of a limb or two.
My dad passed away that summer. This Father’s Day I catch myself daydreaming about that ride. Whether it’s a father and son bonding in the family barber shop, a dad taking his son for an impromptu ride through the park, or a son giving his father an unbearably hideous tie that his father would wear proudly for every Father’s Day to come, we all have these moments where even a smell can transport us back to the days when our innocence was intact and the most important thing in the world to us was how we were going to spend our summers.
As the owner and creator of an old-fashioned men’s grooming line, I was asked to be a guest blogger and talk a bit about Father’s Day, my product line, and I guess, just to generally ramble on about what I felt appropriate. It is an honor to share a glimpse and remind all dads and sons out there that it’s not about the gift, it’s not even about the event, it’s about time. Moments when we reach out to each other and share something special are the moments that carve our memories. Whether it’s with an old fashioned straight razor taking the corners of our jawlines at lighting speeds or a silver cruiser taking it’s time through the winding roads of a nearby park, it isn’t the tool we select to carve those memories, but rather simply, the heart within us that tells us to hold onto them. This Father’s Day, dads hug your sons extra tight. Sons, appreciate your fathers for who they are to you. We don’t all have them and it’s not always a charming Norman Rockwell painting. Life is flying past at neckbreaking speeds, but oh how beautiful it all is.
By Andrew Fuller
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