Gente que Cuenta

Shaving grandpa,
by Rubén Azócar

Old Spice Atril press
“Grandma would wait for me with a basin of warm water in the hallway while my dad set up for the shave…”

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      As a child, every Saturday my dad and I would go to my grandparents’ house. Dad would carry a bag with shaving tools: a cup with a bar of shaving cream at the bottom, a brush, a “classic” razor, double-edged blades, and a bottle of Old Spice lotion.

We arrived at our destination and my grandmother Ana María would open the door for us. After asking for her blessing, we would head to the room where Grandpa was. Grandpa Rafael, who had been as strong as an oak tree in his youth, had become disabled due to severe and poorly controlled diabetes. He had lost his legs, his sight, and the ability to shave himself. Upon entering and after greeting him, he would say to me, “Son, fetch the water.” As if she had been listening to us, Grandma would wait for me with a basin of warm water in the hallway while my dad set up for the shave. And so began this ritual that started with a warm towel soaked in that warm water on Grandpa’s face, followed by the generation of shaving cream with the brush to apply it to Grandpa. It continued, in complete silence, with the razor gliding across his face. The silence was so deep that the sound of the blade cutting through Grandpa’s beard seemed audible. The silence – and the shave – ended with delicate slaps of Old Spice lotion. To me, watching from a stool, it seemed like an epic event.

Upon completion, we would head to the kitchen where Grandma awaited us with some cornmeal arepas made by her, a huge can of butter, and a mountain of grated hard cheese. I guess that’s how those who come home at the end of a battle must feel.

Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t understand why those Saturdays impacted me so much and remained so vivid in my memory. These days, while visiting Medellín to participate as a speaker at a meeting of the Antioquia Anesthesiology Society, I indulged myself and treated myself to a shave at a local barbershop. As the blade glided across my face, I couldn’t help but bring that memory to mind, but this time I understood why it’s so ingrained in me. Shaving Grandpa was a service to a human being who was no longer able to do it himself. It was a demonstration of respect for his role as the patriarch of the family. But above all, it was a profound act of love from my father to his father. I wonder what they would think, feel, and silently say to each other. But what I do know is that it was pure love, as pure as the love contained in Grandma’s arepas.

Ruben Azocar Atril press
Rubén J. Azócar es caraqueño, médico anestesiólogo e intensivista, fanático del béisbol y vive en Boston -desde donde escribe- desde hace más de un cuarto de siglo.

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