There is a small, one woman beauty parlor on a main street in the Triple Cities. In the front, the proprietor cuts hair. In the back, by the sink where customers have their hair washed before their haircut, lies a teenage boy. He is reclining, with his back propped up. He has a laptop on his lap and is listening to music.
In the front of the store, there are family photos. Two of them show the same young man, covered from the neck down in sheets. He is surrounded by family. He is in a hospital room. He is on a respirator.
Many years ago I was between beauticians and my son needed a haircut too. I think my son was 7 then, beautiful and hyperactive. I don't remember how we made our way to this parlor but both my son and I were happy with the haircuts we received. But more important than the haircut was the fact that the salon had built-in boy entertainment. The entertainment was in the form of a boy who seemed to be my son's age (it turns out he was more than 2 years younger) playing in the salon. My son and this boy became instant buddies and matched each other energy for energy. The boy was the beautician's younger son. She would bring him to the salon when she didn't have other daycare arrangements. She was and is a single mother.
Every time haircut time rolled around my son would hope the boy would be there.
Time passed. The boys grew up and became teenagers. And yes, you guessed the obvious. The young man lying in the back room is this little boy grown up. Very grown up this young man is, more than others his age. He has done a lot of growing up since March of this year when he was paralyzed in a car accident shortly after getting his license. This of course, is every mother's nightmare when their children get their drivers licenses.
Five weeks in a hospital, then much of the summer in rehab, he is currently paralyzed from the chest down and has limited use of his arms. He hopes to go back to school and get his GED. He had been studying to become an auto mechanic. He is able to use a power chair.
Amazingly, we didn't know about the accident until today. We were out of town for part of March and the accident may have been at this time. I never even noticed the article in the paper about the benefit held back in July for him to raise funds for renovating his trailer to accomondate his current needs because I don't read the paper that much anymore. So I feel sorrow for them both, mixed with guilt that I did not participate in the fundraiser.
His mother and him will make it through, I know. Their love for each other is visible. She told me they tell each other they love each other daily. She works two jobs, a "day job" and then her salon. And now takes care of her son, too.
It made me think about the last time I told my son, who can be a pain, that I loved him. It's been a while.
She told me my son could be a pain, but he was a good young man, and to cherish him.
I thought I had cherished life every moment since a day 6 years ago when my son survived a high speed head on collision, but I was wrong. My son's injuries, in light of the accident, were not near as bad as they could have been. And now he is 19 and yes he can be a pain. May I remember the moment today in the beauty parlor every time I try to descend into self-pity. And, Young Man, I wish for you that your dreams may one day come true.