His name was Don. I remember it because it sounded like John (my son’s name, Gian, is pronounced the same way). So when the hairdresser at Sports Clips called out his name, Gian started to get up thinking it was his turn. Don shot him a quick glare and called out to her.
“You said Don, right?” The old fellow’s voice was agitated. He waited for her response before expending the energy to stand.
“Yes, Don,” replied the young woman, “right this way.” She lead him to her station for his haircut and that was the last of my interactions with the man. Our time spent together: just over 1 hour, waiting for haircuts. Time spent talking to each other: 15-20 minutes tops. And yet, I will never forget him and the story he shared with me.
I brought Gian in to get his haircut—he HATES getting his haircut. He wants it left long and I like it short. This particular time, I was getting my way because it was 5 or so weeks before my wedding date. I thought if his hair was cut short, it would be grown in perfectly in time for the wedding.
Getting married as a mom is WAY different than when you get married before you have children. I was concerned about making sure everyone else was ready; so thankfully there wasn’t much time to stress about myself. (Although I stressed a little about getting the wrinkles out of my wedding dress; thankfully my friend’s steamer took care of that. J) I had to pick out clothes for my boys and my fiancé. I needed to make sure everybody had shoes that fit and that they were all “well groomed” before the big day. Lol! My parents were out of town so we had transportation to arrange. Truthfully, the biggest challenge was finding the right bra to wear!
Overall, we kept the day very simple—a beach wedding with a few family members. Our focus wasn’t on our limousines, videographers, bridal party, or flower arrangements (all of which we didn’t have). Our focus was on us—just Kim and I—and our love for each other. Throughout our time together we recognized God’s hand in creating our relationship. At times, I was in awe at how His work in us was seamlessly woven. Therefore it was important to us to have our marriage blessed with a God-centered ceremony. We selected Ephesians 4:2-3 to be our wedding sermon’s themed verse: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It turned out to be the most precious day of my life. It was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every possible way. And yet, it was simple—so very simple.
So, what does the grumpy old man, Don, have to do with my wedding story? Well, here’s what happened with him…
When we arrived at Sports Clips, I put Gian’s name on the waiting list to get his haircut. We sat down at two of the only available seats in the place. Ugh, I knew the wait was going to be long. Gian kept himself occupied on his phone and so did I for about a half hour. Each time another patron was called up for his haircut, the man sitting next to me would groan. His grunting was a bit bothersome. I started to wonder if the grumbles were because he was mad at the wait time or if they were because he was in pain. Since he was wearing a shoulder sling and was constantly fidgeting with the strap, it definitely could’ve been the latter.
So after one of the huffs, I asked him, “Are you okay?”
He looked at me as if to say, You really don’t want to know.
But he answered, “Yes. I’ve just been waiting here forever. I mean I have to be next! I think the guy they just called came in after me!”
“Well, I know we came in after you. If they call my son’s name before yours, we’ll know something is definitely not right and I’ll make sure that they take care of you first.”
He seemed satisfied with my answer. I figured since I broke the ice with that reply, I might as well make small talk. Regardless of the fact that he didn’t seem like the talkative kind, I figured we had nothing better to do, so why not?
I asked about his shoulder and inquired about his treatment. As it turns out, he broke it. “This is what I get for trying to do the right thing,” he stated and tacked on one of his grunts of disgust.
Wow, how do I respond to that? This was NOT a happy man. I started to feel sorry for him. I didn’t want to be my usual smiley sunshiney and flowery self with him. I felt that he would’ve shut me down quickly had I played the optimist. So instead, I just nodded and listened as he told me about his injury.
A few weeks prior to our meeting, he was driving along and there was a stalled out car blocking traffic at an intersection. My new friend, eighty-something-year-old tough-as-nails, Don, pulled off to the side of the median and helped the car’s driver by pushing his car out of the intersection and off the road. In doing so, the car moved fast out from under him. Don got tripped up and fell onto the pavement. The man whose car it was wanted to call for help, but instead, stubborn old Don said he was fine and he waved the guy off. The guy was concerned as Don laid for a moment on the side of the road in pain.
“Leave me alone!” yelled Don as he sat up and basically dragged himself back to his vehicle.
He drove himself to the hospital with a broken shoulder and he’s been in a sling ever since. He has a friend who checks on him to see if he ever needs any help, but of course he turns down any assistance. He can do it all by himself. He doesn’t need anybody or anything…another grunt. And then, out of nowhere, I noticed a softening to his face. He remembered something.
“You know, cutting a watermelon is really hard to do with one arm!” He even smiled a little as he stared off into space.
“I bet!” I responded. He was obviously proud of his ability to get the job done despite his injury, but the smile was for another reason…it was for her.
“I remember one time, my wife and I were traveling out west…” He went on to tell me about a time when he and his “bride” were out in the middle of nowhere—in the desert—and their car broke down. They were thirsty and miserable. They started trekking it down the road in hopes of finding a nearby gas station.
On their tired journey, his wife said, “You know what would be SOOOOO good right now?”
“What?” he asked, knowing just about anything that was cold and refreshing would do the trick.
“WATERMELON!! Wouldn’t that be sooo good?” she replied, getting excited at the thought of it.
Don knew better than to share in her enthusiasm. I mean after all, they were in the desert!! At this point, they’d be lucky to find a gas station and some sun-heated water from a hose.
After a bit more walking, to their great surprise, they did just that–they found a gas station! Hooray! They weren’t going to die out in the desert. And guess what else they found? Mmhmm, that’s right! In front of the gas station door there was a giant cooler filled with ice and in that cooler there were whole WATERMELONS!
Don couldn’t believe his eyes. His bride was beyond excited. They purchased a watermelon (and some motor oil) and instead of walking back the whole way, they decided to stop for a moment on the side of the road to enjoy their good fortune. But wouldn’t you know it, they had nothing to cut their watermelon with! His wife’s excitement was deflating fast; so Don took the watermelon from her and bashed it open on a rock. He said he was able to pry the thing apart and together they sat there on the side of the road and scooped watermelon out of each half with their hands. They ate it and got messy and sticky, but it was the BEST watermelon that he had ever eaten in his entire life!
“I bet,” I replied again. This time, I couldn’t help my wide-eyed sunshiney smile. My heart beamed at the idea of a much younger Don and his love with their hands full of fruit. But before I could ask for more details, the smile faded from his face and he snapped back to the present day.
“She’s been gone for 8 years now. Cancer took her from me. It took a lot of people from me.” He rattled off the list of all the family members that were stolen from him too soon along with each of their cancer diagnoses. Then the hairdresser called out his name and that was it. I’ve never seen him since then.
I’m certain he has no idea how blessed me that day. He blessed me with his story about a memory that was so precious—a day that was absolutely breath-takingly beautiful in every way. He reminded me that not just for marriage, but for life in general, the most important things are not a wedding reception, or haircuts, or even finding the right bra! The most important things are the simplest things, like spending time with the ones we love…and eating watermelon. 🙂