My son cringes when he looks at me.
“You’re going to die!” he says. “You’re dying right now!”
As with so many of his pronouncements, this one comes out of the blue, no context to ground me or clue me in on how best to respond.
Philosophically? Why yes, we’re all dying. Every minute we live brings us a little bit closer to the great beyond.
Playfully? Well, not at this very moment unless you’re planning to kill me.
In the end, I settle for knitting my brows in confusion.
He rolls his eyes and points.
Of course. My hair.
It started going gray when I was 23. That’s when I started coloring it.
It grows fast, and I stretch out appointments at the stylist as long as I can, which means living sometimes with silvery gray roots that form a stripe along the part.
My hair is my one vanity, and that gray stripe is not exactly attractive, but it never used to bother me all that much.
It makes my son crazy.
He is always looking for signs of my mortality. Every wrinkle is a personal affront. He examines my face every day. He pulls on my neck and pinches the backs of my hands.
“I can’t look at you,” he says mournfully.
For a long time, he was looking for a reason not to love. Now that he does love, he doesn’t want any reason to stop. He only wants to feel safe and secure. Protected from more loss, more hurt.
I will go to the hair salon, and I will get the roots colored. He will examine my hair when I get home.
“That’s so much better,” he will say with relief. “Now I can look at you again.”
But the gray continues to grow.
I can promise him so many things, but not this.