Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Rememberance

I wasn't going to write a blog article today, Father's Day, and I wasn't going to shave with a twist-to-open (TTO) razor. If you've been reading my blogs, you know that I prefer the older style two- and three-piece razors because they tend to give me a more comfortable shave than a TTO, all other things equal. Today's shave was to be with the 37C slant, the next up in my two-razor rotation -- and with a new blade.

Yet I woke with the strange impulse to shave with my Weishi 9306-f, a TTO. After considering this for a moment, I decided to shave with my vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable, another TTO, and also my father's razor. Then I remembered it was Father's Day.

My father's razor: Gillette Slim Adjustable made in 1963.
As a young child, I didn't often watch him shave. Although my one memory of him shaving -- probably a composite -- was with this old Gillette. I never saw him use soap and brush; he was a canned-foam guy. And like so many other activities, he never gave me any instruction on shaving that I can recall, but he did let me watch, and then left it to me to figure out my own path.

I inserted the blade, set the razor on four, and wondered for a moment what his setting would have been. He had this adjustable DE and no others, so I assume he was not satisfied with the shave of non adjustables. He also switched to the new dual-blade Gillette Trac II cartridge razors about as soon as they came out, so I also assume that, like me, he didn't get the most comfortable shave from a TTO DE -- especially if he was using canned foam. And unlike me, he wasn't the type to give such a minor issue much thought and analysis, although he was a very smart guy in many ways.

So I lathered from the left-overs bowl this morning, and made thick and creamy lather, much smoother, I assume, than the foam from his can. He shaved almost every day -- certainly every work day -- because he was a white collar worker, an executive, for a Fortune 500 corporation. He was born in 1923 and started working for that corporation in about 1950, after serving as a waist gunner and radio operator on a B-24 in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater in WWII, and, after, getting a degree in business administration on the GI Bill.

My first pass was uneventful and done with mostly oblique strokes, his old razor feeling substantial in my finger tips. My father had confided to me that he started smoking cigarettes when he was about 11 years of age, and, as a youth, spent much of his free time in the pool hall in his small Ohio home town. (He escaped that town by enlisting in the army after Pearl Harbor.) Later, when I was grown, we spent some man-to-man bonding time shooting pool in the basement of his last home. Our pool-shooting period was before he had the heart-bypass surgery and before he was diagnosed with lung cancer -- both maladies attributable to his smoking habit, even though he had quit earlier, at about age 60.

My second pass was cross grain, this time all oblique strokes, and often a bit against the grain to accomodate the contours of my face. Despite the excellent lather this morning, the shave was beginning to feel a bit harsh, and which I would attribute to the inherent blade angle of the TTO razor.

We never fully understood each other, I think. Though we were alike in some ways, our emotional landscape was very different, and he was not prone to self revelation, or, perhaps, even to much introspection and self analysis. He was a seat-of-the-pants, forge-ahead kind of guy. He was 69 when he had the heart surgery, and about a year later, age 70, found out about the cancer.

He put me through college, without much interference, and certainly not much advice; he let me choose my fate. (His only suggestion that I recall was that I should get an MBA, which I did not.) His own father was killed while working for the railroad, when my dad was only three years old. He said to me more than one time that he never had a father, and he always said that as kind of an apology, as though he felt he wasn't properly trained for the job, and knew that he wasn't up to the task.

Yet we played many a game of catch in those early years, when baseball was my main interest. I remember once in his home town during a visit to his mother, my grandmother, in the back yard near the garden I nearly broke his handsome nose with a wild pitch in the dirt. His nose bled and bled, and he never said a cross word that I can recall.

My third pass, largely against the grain and again entirely with oblique strokes, was once again a bit harsh, but fairly close. I can still picture how my father would contort his face while shaving with that Gillette adjustable, though I don't think he ever did much more than a single-pass shave -- at least I never witnessed him lathering for a second time. That's probably one reason he abandoned the DE razor and made the switch to the Trac II.

I was living out of town when he was diagnosed with cancer. So I missed the ordeal of the chemo treatments, though I did see the resulting hair loss as well as the physical wasting as he resisted in that final struggle. I was on my way to visit him, knowing it would likely be the last time, when he slipped away. He was 71. I never got to say an official, final good-bye, although I would like to think that our last meeting in a hospital room accomplished that in an understated way.

His old razor, now open and drying on my bathroom counter, will soon be put back in the shaving shoe box and stored back on the closet shelf. There it will be safe and ready the next time I want to experience in a small way how things used to be.

Happy Father's Day.

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