Dale Says

August 27, 2021

I like to eat

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Mr. D @ 2:24 pm

I took my dad to the barber for his last real haircut. He was in his 80’s, his Parkinson’s was getting worse, and he had macular degeneration, so he didn’t get out much. And he hadn’t had a haircut for a while. I came home for a few days to help mom take care of him, and dad asked if I would take him for a haircut. At the time, he had very little hair on the top of his head (like me now), and the hair around his ears was thin and wispy. But it must have bothered him, because he really wanted a haircut. So we drove down to Kerk’s Barber Shop on Highway 30 in the downtown section of town. No appointment was necessary, and when we arrived Willard was sitting in one of his two barber chairs, reading the sports section of the Omaha World Herald. When we walked in, Willard put down his paper, brushed off the chair, and helped dad get settled in. I sat in the other barber chair and thumbed through an issue of Sports Illustrated.

Willard put the barber cape around dad, picked up his clippers, and started to work. Dad wasn’t very responsive in those days, so Willard’s small talk about the wheat harvest and Nebraska football team didn’t go far. Eventually, Willard started to visit with me. After a few minutes I asked him why he was still working, since he was in his 70s.

“I like to eat,” he told me. I waited to hear what that had to do with the question.

“If I don’t work,” he continued, “I don’t earn any money. And if I don’t earn any money, I can’t buy food, and I can’t eat. And I like to eat.”

I thought that was a good answer, although I knew Willard had plenty of money. And I think he liked to work. Or at least he like to talk to people who came into his shop.

Years later, after my dad and Willard had passed away, Willard’s wife called on my mom and I, and I told her what Willard had said that day.

“He said that to a lot of people,” she replied. “The truth was he drove me crazy at home. He was always in the kitchen, asking for something to eat. So I told him to go to work.”

I’ve thought a lot about Willard since then. I miss his presence in his barber chair, and I miss his attitude toward life. And every now and then I use his answer and tell his story when someone asks me why I still work.

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