“Doing the Best We Can,” August 10, 2021

It was a mistake. Not my first. Or my last. I knew I’d regret it, but did it anyway. Funny, isn’t it? The things we do for love.

Last year, when the pandemic shut down life as we knew it, we had no idea how long it would last, or what it might require of us. In some ways, we still don’t. The journey has been infinitely more painful for some than for others. The loss of lives, jobs, homes and hope is a tragedy unlike any in our lifetime.

The only real difficulty for me—and it’s nothing compared to what so many have faced—is how much I’ve missed spending time with people: Family and friends, but also with strangers I’d meet on a plane or waiting in a line, strike up a conversation and hear their life stories.

Few things in life make us feel more human than sharing our stories with each another. I’ve missed that a lot. Lately, as restrictions slowly eased, I’ve loved reconnecting—meeting a friend for lunch, having my grandkids sleep over, or saying to a lab tech who’s drawing my blood for a check-up, “So, tell me, where did you grow up?”

It’s a magic question. Try it. You could hear a great story, not so different from your own.

I’ve been asking that question and others like it all my life. The pandemic hasn’t stopped me. It just made it harder, and gave me a new appreciation for it. Sometimes, we don’t miss what we’ve got until it’s gone.

Take, for example, hair.

In our 20 years together, my husband never asked me to cut his hair. Yes, he is a very smart man. But intelligence often defers to desperation.

Several months into the pandemic, with barbershops closed, his hair began to make him look—OK, I’ll just say this—like Larry of the Three Stooges.

So he ordered an electric hair clipper, handed it to me and for some reason, I accepted it.

Yes, that is the mistake I referred to at the start.

“It’s not hard,” he said, “the clipper will do all the work.”

Suddenly I remembered my grandmother’s words the day I phoned her to say I was marrying a Californian:
“Honey,” she said, “don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Yankees don’t make good husbands. I’m just saying they’re peculiar.”

Then she added, “Marriage is hard. Just remember: Don’t start doing anything you don’t want to keep doing forever.”

Why did I agree to cut my husband’s hair? I’m not sure. Was it the look of desperation that I saw in his eyes? Or what I saw growing on his head?

We went out to the patio, turned on the clippers and as we say in the South, the fur began to fly. Come spring, birds near and far would line their nests with tufts of his hair.

I didn’t do a great job. I just did the best I could. And really, what more can we do?

After I finished, he locked himself in the bathroom. I heard the clipper and thought, hmm. But when he came out he said thanks, and never complained.

I hoped that would be the end of my haircutting career. But I’ve hoped that about a lot of things in the pandemic. The end of Covid. The end of masks. The end of feeling like a prisoner under house arrest. But things don’t end until they end.

Yesterday, after his hair had grown an inch, my husband asked me to cut it. Again.

“Barbershops are open!” I said. “I’ll pay anything it costs!”

“I want you to cut it,” he said.

So I did. It wasn’t a great job. I blamed it on the clipper. But my husband didn’t complain.

We do things for someone, not because we’re good at it, but because we see a look in their eyes, or on their heads, or maybe even in the mirror, and it makes us want to help.

Little acts of kindness mean a lot. Listening to a story. Smiling through a mask. Or even giving a bad haircut. We don’t need to be the best at what we do. We just need to do the best we can.


  1. What a fun read. A friend clipped your essay from the Olean, NY paper and sent it to me because she knows this is part of our life. I even started a Facebook page for our “salon”. We are Rick and Elaine so we have R & E Hair Styles —
    R & E Hair Styles
    The scissors are cheap and dull
    The training is clearly null.
    The skill is simply not there
    But the results are much shorter hair.

  2. Betty McNall says

    Does this ever bring back memories! We had been married 8 months and for our Birthday’s(June 3rd, both of us have the same BD date, but Vince is 6 yrs older,lol) his Mother whom was wheelchair bound, had a clipped set bought for us so I could learn to cut hair!!! Vince would always have his sister-in-law cut his hair and sometimes it was inconvenient! We will be married 60 years this October 21st, and I’m still cutting his hair!

  3. Terri Blazier says

    Great story and it will always be a great memory of making lemonade out of the lemons in our lives. I wish I could have been a fly in the wall watching my daughter in love cutting my son’s hair while the barber shops were closed. Thanks again for a fabulous read.

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    OK, I’ll bite. Many decades ago… before I was even “the Mrs.” my dear fiancé asked me (or did I ask him???? We always have a different opinion on that part of the story) to cut his very thick and “70’s long” hair. There were no electric clippers, just a pair of not very sharp “barber scissors” that he found buried in his mama’s bathroom drawer. Like you, we took it outside, and most definitely the “fur began to fly.” Oh my oh my… did it EVER fly!!!!! I did my best… but it was truly a godawful disaster. He was kind about it, and went to work that afternoon at the supermarket around the corner from his house— hoping no one would say anything. But someone did. Yes ma’am, the barber from the shop just two doors down from the market asked nicely, “PLEASE!!!! I beg you to come into my shop on your lunch hour and let me fix it…. No charge…. I would LOVE the challenge!” That was 48 years ago… and I’ve not taken a scissors to his head since then 😂👍🏻 But you know what? Although he’s not got much hair left these days he DOES ALLOW #5 to cut it once a month or so…. Every now and again I offer…. Just to get “the look.” 😜

  5. Sheri Titcombe says

    Little acts of kindness mean so much. During the pandemic was a card love group I joined. I make the cards, print the sayings inside and mail them. ..hoping to put a smile on the recipient’s face. Now that the stores are opening back up…I try and start up, conversations with people…always smiling at them and hope they have a good day.

  6. Sylvia Short says

    I love reading your letters, having said that I’ll tell you I have been a barber for forty five years. I’ve see those covid haircuts. Most were not pretty! Tell your husband as I jokingly tell my clients customers like you will drive us out of business! Leave it to the professionals. We love to hear what’s going on with our clients, it’s more than a job for must of us!

  7. This is a funny truth. You should have attached before and after pics. Not that I don’t believe you, but I guess I just want to see your husband. He must be a gentle, trusting soul. You, too, of course!

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