Haircut

"Don't worry so much; they haven't bathed in this long.  What's the worst thing if they don't?" Afram asked me on our way home from the gym yesterday when I was telling him about how I couldn't stop thinking about trying to get my grandparents to bathe while I was on the treadmill.

"I don't know... I guess you're right," I sighed.

"I'm not trying to argue with you, I'm just trying to get you to think logically about it."

"Yeah, I agree.  They're fine not bathing..."

"Baby steps.  If they don't agree to bathe, you can at least do some laundry like you said," he replied, patting my leg.

I felt better.  If it really upset my grandmother, it probably would be fine if at least I could just trick them into some clean clothes.

*                *                *                *                *

I talked my plans over with my mom before I called my grandparents, since they probably weren't awake yet  this morning around 9:30a.

"Well, if anyone could get them to do it, it would be you," she said.  I told her that I was going to try and trick her into thinking that she was the one who requested I help. I was still skeptical.

I called my grandparents around 10:30 and chitchatted with my grandmother about nothing in particular and told her I was coming to visit to get her into a good mood.  When she offered for me to talk to my grandfather, I tried to let him in on what my intentions were.

Big mistake.

"I'm going to try and help you get Gramma to let you wash her hair so I can cut it. Don't talk to her about it, I just wanted to tell you," I said, stupidly.

"She always yells at me! She won't let me! She hates when I try and wash her hair! And then I make an appointment to have her see Alice so she can cut her hair! But, she won't let me!" he complained.

I heard her yelling from the background.

"And then afterward, she always messes it all up! It looks so nice and she sticks her hands in there and musses everything!" he continued in concert with my grandmother's refusal to have her hair done.

I sighed. "Stop talking about it. I only told you so that you'd know.  Forget it for now, don't talk about it anymore. I'll be over later."

"Okay," he said. "We're not going anywhere. We'll be here all day."

I watched a brief youtube video on how to give a child a haircut.  It was a small red-headed child, probably about four-years-old, who was remarkably well-behaved. He sucked happily on a lollipop in the kitchen as the hairdresser, who I imagine was his mother, explained how to measure, cut, and layer his hair into the camera.  She even accidentally sprayed his face with water and he only smiled, wiping his eyes.

"That kid is so cute," I said to Afram.  "I hope our kid is like that.  I'm scared our kid is going to be a monster."

"God! What is wrong with you?! Our kid is not going to be a monster! Our kid is going to be awesome!" he replied, for the billionth time ever since we started talking about having kids.

I smiled sheepishly at him, as I always do, hoping that he would be right.

After a massive nosebleed (maybe it was stress-induced, who knows), I headed over to their house around noon with our dog, Ruby, for a distraction.

My grandfather was in the kitchen cooking lunch, which surprised me, since I didn't really believe he cooked anymore.  I figured I'd try and get her to accept a haircut first, after lunch, and then maybe coerce that into a bath.

I could tell my grandmother was already in a bad mood.  She was looking things over at the table, getting angry at everything.

"Don't try to have one of these!" she shouted at my grandfather and me from the living room.  She rustled a newspaper in front of us reading the headline.



"Expensive ceremony on yacht irks grads!" she yelled.  "The politicians are always trying to get your money.  So don't have an expensive ceremony!"

I looked at her quizzically, but just agreed.

Deciding to try and just stay out of the way until after lunch, I told my grandfather I needed to do a load of laundry and brought in the fleece zip-up from my car so I could trick them into letting me do theirs.

"Ba, I need to wash this. Can I use your washer?" I asked.

"Sure!" he happily complied, excited to be able to help me.

"But, it's just one thing. Can I grab some of your laundry so that we can do a full load?"

"Um... no, don't bother with that," he said, already preoccupied with showing me how their side-loading washer worked.

"No, you can't just wash one thing.  Here, let me go grab some stuff."

I knew I had limited time.  I grabbed most of the towels out of their bathroom and some dirtier things from my grandmother's pile of clothes in her room and rushed back out to the garage to my grandfather.  I shoved everything into the washer and he helped me put the soap in and start it up.

"I'm going to get rid of some of Gramma's clothes," I told him in confidence.  "There's too many and lots are stained and too big, and this way it will make it easier for you guys to put stuff away."

"Okay," he nodded, looking relieved.  "That sounds good, just don't tell her because she'll want everything."

"Yeah, I know," I agreed.

"So, have you bathed recently?" I asked, trying to not sound too accusing.

"Yes, I bathe all the time," he said, not sounding offended in the least. "I just wait until she goes to bed and then I do it."

I really wanted to believe him.  The bathtub didn't look as dusty and even looked wet when I saw it.  I decided to leave it at that.

"She's not the same anymore," he said, looking at me sadly, referring to her constant outbursts of anger. "She's not the same girl from a long time ago."

"I know," I replied, putting my hand on his shoulder.

"I can't do anything about it, she's just not the same anymore. I just deal with it."

Out in the patio, I found a big Bed, Bath & Beyond bag and started filling it with all the clothes from the huge pile and from in the first set of shelves that were either too big, too revealing, or too stained and old.  My grandmother walked in on me.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

At first I tried to be honest, but she wasn't having that.

"No, I want all these! If it's still here, it means I can still wash it," she said adamantly.

"Um, okay," I told her.  "I'm just putting them in this bag so that I can wash it, okay?"

"No! You don't have to, I wash my own clothes. I don't want you to help me.  I don't need help. I do my own laundry," she replied.

"Oh, well, my washer is broken," I lied. "I brought a few clothes over, but I need to do a full load. Is that okay? You're helping me."

"Well," she said. "Okay, then."

She left the room, continuing her now constant groaning with each breath, that she's recently started doing unconsciously.

Shortly afterward, I heard her screaming at my grandfather again.

"What is this?" she demanded, handing my grandfather a jury summons.

"Ed [my grandmother's brother] will take care of it for me!" he answered, immediately on the defensive.

"Ed?!" she asked, condescendingly.  "You can't have Ed do things for you! You have to do things yourself. Otherwise you'll never learn!"

"No, Donald [Ed's son] is going to do it for me. He just has to go online and then I don't have to go."

I ran out.  "Don't worry about it," I said, trying to diffuse things. "Once you get to a certain age, you don't have to go anymore. It's not a big deal."

My grandfather continued to repeat the bit about being able to go online and how simple it was, and my grandmother returned to her seat at the table, grumbling about how you shouldn't let people do things for you.

"Ooh, what's this?" she said excitedly, picking up an envelope holding her tax refund.  "Three hundred and twenty-one dollars?! I'm rich!"

She laughed and stuck the envelope in her jacket pocket.  I knew I'd have to find that later and take it home to make sure it got deposited in their account.

I continued going through her clothes and prepared a pile for the next load of laundry and for the donation bag.  I also refolded and put away a bunch of clothes that didn't seem dirty, but were in piles in the shelves.

My grandfather never appeared to finish preparing the lunch he was working on, but I don't really know what he was doing while I was doing laundry.

I heard my grandmother yelling again.

"Turn the light off!" she screamed at my grandfather in the garage as he was looking at the washing machine. "You don't pay the bills, I do! And the electricity bills are very high!"

He stuttered in response, agreeing to turn the light off, just trying to calm her down.

"I pay for everything around here! You don't pay. You don't know. Always wasting electricity," she finished, caustically.

When I came out, her rant was over.  I just patted my grandfather on the shoulder again and told him not to worry.  He just shook his head, smiling his tired smile at me.

When I was done going through as many clothes as I thought I could, I went out to try and convince my grandmother to let me cut and wash her hair, and maybe give her a bath.

She was going through some photos that I had printed for my grandfather several months ago.

"What is this?" she grumbled. "Why are there so many lousy pictures of this?"

She showed me the pictures my grandfather took of workmen while they were replacing piping under their house.

"Ba took those," I said. I explained that he just thought it was interesting.

She grumbled some more, disapprovingly, getting angry again and again as she shuffled through the pictures over and over, never remembering that she'd already looked through them once, twice, three times...

I took the photos away and replaced them with a photo album.

"Here, tell me who is in these photos," I said, trying to get her into a better mood.  It was the photo album my Auntie Kathy and her family had made for my grandfather's 70th birthday party back in 1986.

She smiled, looking at the old photos of herself and my grandfather and his siblings, telling me who was who.  When she was about halfway through, I interrupted.

"Gramma? I was wondering if you'd let me cut your hair." I knew there was no way she'd let us take her to see the hairdresser anymore.  They always spray hairspray on her, and fuss for too long, and she hates it.  The fact that she remembers her feelings on seeing the hairdresser is a testament to how much she hates it.

"What?!" she said looking at me, horrified.

"I um..." I stuttered. "I've been wanting to learn how to cut hair.  So I was hoping that you'd let me practice on you.  Would that be okay?"

The horrified look dissipated slightly.

"Well... not too short, okay?" she replied, not wanting to disappoint her granddaughter who was only asking for a favor.

"Of course, not too short.  So, we can have Ba wash your hair first, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed, without too much fighting.

"Do you think maybe we could just give you a bath instead?"

The horrified look returned.

"A bath?! No!" she shouted.  "It's too cold!"

She grabbed my hands so I could feel that they were cold.

This conversation happened two more times almost exactly this way, the last time minus the bath request, until my grandfather found his barber's kit and smock.  Then we had to find the safety pins after the smock was around her with no velcro, buttons or other abilities to attach it.  Everything happened painfully slowly as we searched their hoarder's paradise for one thing after another.  Thankfully the smock was already on her, so it would be difficult for her to forget what we were already in the process of doing.

We finally found safety pins and she happily obliged us by taking off all her jewelry.  I turned on the water to make sure it was the right temperature to her liking. My grandfather clumsily washed her hair in the sink, demanding that she bend down lower, while she screamed louder and louder as water dripped over her face.

Within a minute, we were done, her hair being as thin as it is.  My grandfather tried to dry her head, his hot dog fingers not rubbing gently enough, and she shrilly protested, telling him she could dry her own hair.

We got her into the kitchen and I picked out the scissors and comb I had seen in the video and proceeded to cut her hair all the same length, as well as I could.  She interrupted periodically to shriek comically.

"Did I scare you?" she'd ask, trying to trick me into thinking that I did something wrong.

I smiled at her, glad to see she was at least having some fun.  My grandfather asked over and over again if I wanted to dry her hair first.  The woman in the video said to cut the hair wet, so I just refused over and over again. I finished relatively quickly, and my grandfather brought out some curlers.  We put them in her hair together, and then used the blow drier to set the curls.  She was surprisingly non-combative about the whole process.

There were still a few strands that I missed that were too long, but all in all, I thought it looked much better than before.



Happy Grandma


I hoped my parents would be happy, since I think it upsets them the most that she refuses to cut her hair and wash it.  I think it's more that it's a reminder that she doesn't have the mental capacity for self-awareness.  I don't think she minds that her hair looks long and scraggly.

I waited for the second load to finish drying and folded all of it. Ruby was bored, and it was time to go.  I reminded them that I would be picking them up for my father's birthday dinner tomorrow, I gave them hugs, thanked them for letting me use their washer and dryer, and practice my hair cutting skills and I left.

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