Dealing with a hair raising experience

2016-11-20 08:39

I come from a family where people die. Not in the 90-year-old way where they slowly shuffle off the mortal coil. Or where they transition from life to death gently and peacefully without so much as a ripple. But rather in the dramatic dropping dead in their prime of life sort of way. Gorgeous and alive one minute, and then pretty much not, the next. As you might imagine, it’s a little anxiety provoking.

Which makes Friday all the more stressful. My wife and 11-year-old daughter were out. They might have told me where they were going but I was probably half way through writing an email that no one would read. So I might not have paid attention. My daughter is about to celebrate her bat-mitzvah which is the coming of age of a Jewish woman. For her it’s pretty much a wedding without the inconvenience of the groom. It has also (in this case) been scrubbed clean of any real meaning and our focus is purely on the aesthetics. Which doesn’t make us resentful at all. Not one bit.

At around 3:30pm her tutor arrived at the house. They were not yet home so I called my wife to let her know. She didn’t pick up. In of itself this is hardly a wonder, given that we have 5 children (4 boys and then a girl), she runs a home bakery and loses an average of one phone every 10 days (give or take). The road she travels is strewn with cellphones that left behind as they slide off the roof of the car along with her Standard Bank credit card. It might well have been more a concerned had she answered. So I dialed my daughter's number. And she picked up.

Her scream told me someone was dead. Badly dead. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” She bellowed into the phone. She couldn’t get the words out. All I could hear were her gut wrenching heart breaking sobs. My heart raced, adrenaline surged through my system and I went into fight mode. “Where are you?” I screamed back. “Tell me where you are! What’s wrong? Where is mom?” I need to add that we are on MTN so we kept getting cut off which made the process a lot more frustrating than was absolutely necessary.

And then she managed to tell me the terrible tragedy behind her heartbreak.

“I, I, I went to the hairdresser,” she stammered, “And she said she wouldn’t cut a lot off my hair. But she did!” she sobbed. Seriously? I am a man but I have heard stories. And I knew that this was a parenting moment that would determine the father - daughter relationship forever. What I said next would set the agenda for what she would discuss in therapy at the time of her life in the future when it will be easier to blame her parents than take responsibility herself. And just then the cell phone gods intervened and the call ended. In gratitude for that alone I will renew my contract with MTN.

Her tutor was the one who counselled me wisely. She explained what this means to a girl and how traumatic the experience can be. She explained how violated she must be feeling and even if I don’t see the difference in the length of her hair, that I shouldn’t say so. “But why not?” I asked, a bit confused by it all. Surely that was the issue at hand? The look she gave me was a mixture between pity and sadness and suggested unequivocally that I would never get it. And she is probably right.

My heart rate only started to revert to its normal cadence when they walked through the door. My wife looked ashen. Never in 25 years have I seen her so depleted and pale. And lots of people have died around us so there has not been a lack of opportunity. But this senseless tragedy clearly had pushed her over the edge. She doesn’t drink but I poured her glass of white wine which she took from me without acknowledgment and drank wordlessly, before going to her room to rock herself to sleep in a fetal position.

Needless to say I can’t see the difference in the length of my daughter’s hair. Everyone that counts thinks she looks stunning (I am not included in the elite crew of those whose view matters). And the red rims around her eyes have all but faded.

We on the other hand are still left bewildered and confused. But have a fresh bottle of Chardonnay already chilling in the refrigerator in case of emergencies.

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