Some time after the birth of my son, I found the first one. Coarse, errant, longer than the other eyebrow hairs. I freaked out. Well, that’s it then – it’s all downhill from here on out. Ace claims that everything went to pot for him at 45: nose hairs, shoulder joints, ear hairs, a softening about the midsection.
I think I yanked out that first hair with tweezers. Out out, damn spot! A couple years later, I found myself yanking out not one, not two, but THREE! ACK!!!!! Never a big fan of the kohl browpencil, I decided an alternative tactic was in order. Enter the strategic brow trim.
I met Mr. Fein my first year of family medicine residency as a brand fresh intern. He came into the ER with frank blood pouring out of his bottom, never a happy scenario. By the time I saw him in the ICU, his blood hemoglobin level was still alarmingly low despite several transfused units.
Mr. Fein hadn’t seen a doctor since the day he was born, a fact of which he seemed quite proud. He claimed a complete lack of medical issues, excepting the blood, of course. Mr. Fein resembled the mugshot accompanying the headline, “Reclusive Mountain Man Emerges From Isolation.” Wizened and wrinkled. Wild snarled hair that my memory embeds (perhaps erroneously) with bits of twigs and leaves. His eyebrows resembled the wiry legs of centipedes on steroids.
I adored Mr. Fein. I used my youth and innocence to best advantage, gently coaxing him into an understanding of the gravity of his situation. Colon cancer, widely metastatic, imminently fatal.
At one point during his hospital course, he took a turn for the worse. I don’t remember exactly what happened. I recall sitting on the edge of his bed, holding his hand, telling him I was worried about him. I shed a tear or two. The third year resident on call ushered me away from the bedside, essentially branding my emotion as unprofessional.
On my day off, Mr. Fein glared at the intern and senior resident who came to the ICU to see him. ”Who are you? You aren’t my doctor! Where’s my doctor? That Snappin Lappin, whatever her name is!” I heard this story over and over from my colleagues, accompanied by peals of laughter.
Mr. Fein finally improved to the point that he moved from the ICU to the regular hospital floor. I stared at his eyebrows every day. To me, those eyebrows represented the lack of a loving family in Mr. Fein’s life. Surely a daughter (maybe even a son) would’ve assisted her father with this grooming task. Mr. Fein had no daughter, no daughter-in-law, no housekeeper, no home health aid, no involved neighbor.
But he had me.
Maybe the floor secretary wondered why I ordered up a suture removal kit on a guy who didn’t need any sutures removed. At any rate, she didn’t ask. I used the lovely pair of iris scissors to carefully trim Mr. Fein’s wayward brows. I can’t get rid of your cancer, but I can make you look like someone loves you.
The gastroenterologist was pissed. ”His eyebrows were his best feature!” He didn’t understand.
Mr. Fein died within the month. I think of him every time I cut my husband’s hair and trim his eyebrows. I think of him when I find that wiry long stray on my own face.
And I smile.