Learning doesn't end when school does

Learning doesn't end when school does

To quote John Lennon, she’s not a girl who misses much.

For as long as I’ve known my wife — and we’re talking thousands of days and nights, dating back to fall 1987 when I was 32 — she’s proven herself to be a whip smart lady, able to see around corners, a 3-D chess wizard even as I messed around with checkers.

Which was why it was passing strange when, after spending the afternoon on the beach, I decided to shave off my beard, a bone of contention throughout our time together, lo these many years, and it took her the better part of 20 hours to even notice.

For a while I doubted I’d even done it — that’s how weird it was.

I thought she’d be thrilled, excited maybe, but alas, that didn’t happen, so I chalked it up to some sort of married-couple syndrome, the kind that helps infuse best-selling books and popular movies with their “I know that feeling” vibe, which makes millions.

Instead, I waited … and waited … and waited some more.

I’m good at that, actually, which helped when I first decided to cultivate the unshaven look. It was the summer of the bicentennial, and long story short, I spilled a gallon of red paint over my head as I worked to complete the final touches on a sign outside one of my little town’s prettier parks. I knew I must look ghastly hideous, so rather than return to the maintenance building looking like a survivor of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," I made my way home on my own, slogging through creeks and alleys, feeling alienated.

Then after all that nonsense and getting most of my hair cut off, it was time to head back to college and, well, that’s when I decided to grow my first beard. Mom was like, “You look like a bum from Hogan’s Alley,” a reference I didn’t understand but took to mean the woman who had given me life was, um, reconsidering.

This, I believe, was quite similar to my wife’s virulent antipathy to my occasional hirsute appearance, which I suspect it had something to do with her preference for the clean-shaven look which, when paired with shoulder-length hair, pleased her.

It’s all rather flattering, and I’d be the last guy to suggest otherwise, owing to my rather narcissistic tendencies, my deeply rooted sense of self worth and a winning — or so I’ve been told — type of humility, a kind of “Aw shucks, ma’am” thing that often works.

Nothing wrong with a little self-effacing charm is there?

For many years I followed the same course of action, whereupon once the final out of last game of the World Series had been recorded, I would not shave until the following spring, when pitchers and catchers reported to training camp. This was roughly four months — which encompassed the entire holiday season — during which time my wife oh-so-subtly hid her displeasure.

But I knew … oh yes, I knew.

There was an additional mitigating ingredient to my annual “tradition,” one probably best labeled “laziness.” Despite the fact my father was an electric shaver believer — he gifted me one on the occasion of my 16th birthday (no Mustang in the driveway for me) — I’ve always been partial to sharp blades and rich lather.

I mean if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.

Which is how I found myself staring into the bathroom mirror a couple of weeks ago, sand in every crevice and cranny of my 68-year-old body, thinking, “I believe I’ll surprise my lovely wife.”

And an hour later, I debuted the brand-new me … to utter silence.

Well, that’s not entirely true. My wife wanted to talk about the house being built across the street and the latest episode of “Succession” and what I might like to take to work for lunch.

Then it was onto her latest plans for her family reunion in the fall, a massive undertaking that makes preparations for D-Day seem almost haphazard, a labor of love to which she devotes incredible energy every other year. By means of clumsy contrast, when it comes to attending my 50th class reunion with her this summer, I’m more of the “Is it that time already?” school of thought.

All the while, standing there in the kitchen, freshly shaven again after many months, I felt less visible than Banquo’s ghost and no more relevant than Notre Dame football under Gerry Faust’s watch.

Speaking of my alma mater, I was sitting on the beach at Emerald Isle, sporting an ND T-shirt, when I guy about my age ambled over.

“My daughter married a grad,” he said. “They’re in Chicago.”

“Nice,” I said. “Lots of alums up there, a few friends of mine.”

“Good school,” he said. “What year did you graduate?”

I told him and was about to launch into the story about how the president spoke at the ceremony and how the Secret Service searched everyone and how some of us tossed peanuts onstage … when I felt my wife tugging at my elbow, the universal sign I was about to venture into humble-bragging territory and to shut up.

All of which is to say that when she finally noticed, way back when, that I’d shaved, I have a feeling she’d known for a while.

Like John Lennon said all those years ago, she doesn’t miss much.

Mike Dewey can be reached at CarolinamikeD@aol.com or 6211 Cardinal Drive, New Bern, NC 28560. He invites you to join the fun on his Facebook page, where laziness is considered a virtue.

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