It is rare that I don’t think about my father. When we sing a certain song in church, I remember singing it with him. When a song comes on the radio or iPod shuffle, I remember sitting the wooden pew listening to him sing that song in church. When the car makes a funny sound, I think about in what seemed like no time at all, he would be able to identify the sound. When I watch the CBS Evening News, I remember how that was a part of his evening ritual when coming home from work.
And I miss him.
I miss that he would always be there. I miss that he always seemed to have a fix, no matter the problem. I miss how he deeply listened to people, hearing them to speech. I miss how helping and serving others was important to him.
There is a glimmer of a memory watching my dad shave. The sink full of warm water, the shaving cream spread across his face, and razor in hand. A skill I would need to master. My parents gave me shaving cream and razors for Easter one year while I was in middle school. Shaving would become a ritual for me just it had for my dad.
But not this month.
This month I have not been shaving. No razor or shaving cream has touched my face. I have decided not to shave in observance of No Shave November. According the No Shave November website, this is “a unique way to raise cancer awareness.” The monies donated support the American Cancer Society. But a quick Google search will show that there are other organizations that encourage men to participate in some form of No Shave November to raise funds and awareness for their causes.
I have decided to do in memory of my father, Bruce C. Stanley. Dad had prostate cancer and died from it April 15, 2001. Easter Sunday. That previous September Dad had started experiencing unbearable back pain. It was treated for a pinched nerve. After a month of the pain continuing, Dad went to get a second opinion and that is when he learned that he actually had prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the leading diseases in men. It is the second cause of cancer death in men, only to lung cancer. According to cancer.org, the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2013 about 238,590 men will be newly diagnosed with the disease and that the disease will be the cause of death for about 29,720 men. Roughly about 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer.
Dad just happened to be one of the 1s.
Dad always had facial hair. For the longest time, it was full fledge beard.
But, not always. When he and Mom got married in 1975, he had a simple, conservative mustache.
After I was born, he sported his awesomeness, circa 1979-1980.
As the ’80s continued, the mustache became the beard.
Over time, it returned to a simple mustache. The switch came after much debate in our house as to whether Dad should shave his beard or not. I don’t remember what the deciding factor was, but it was a compromise to keep the mustache. And he held on to the mustache for as long as he could.
In the first few months after learning he had prostate cancer, there wasn’t too much change. But eventually, Dad would have to limit himself to the amount of physical labor he could do. The pain was just too great. While we worked in the yard, he would sit on the back deck watching, and wishing he could be out there with us.
As the cancer got stronger, Dad got weaker. He would eventually not have the strength to support himself to get up or to sit down. Family members would come by and, in a day, build a wheelchair ramp on the front of the house. Dad would be wheeled out in a wheelchair on the new ramp, lifted up out the car, and sat into the car.
To see my father – the essence of manhood – so weak and unable to do “manly” things, was heartbreaking. He was the one who worked on all kinds of automobiles. He was the one who chopped wood so we had firewood for the winter. He was the one who built a doghouse for our dog. He was Dad.
He was the one who carried us when we were not able to make it on our own. Yet, here he was in a hospital bed barely able to raise himself up. The more the cancer grew, and the more medicine ravaged through his body, the less hair he had. Including the facial hair that was a part of his identity as much as it was a part of his face.
The loosing of hair marked the lost of strength.
And so, I’m not shaving to remember, to honor, to raise awareness, and most of all, to be strong for all the times my father wasn’t able to be.
For more information about No Shave November, visit their website here, and consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society.