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by Justin Deming

It had been a while since he’d shaved. Years, in fact.

He wasn’t so sure why he wanted the beard to begin with. His wife had probably made a comment about how handsome he’d look with one, or something to that effect. But when he sat to actually ponder the question, it hit him smack-dab in the face: his father had been clean-shaven his whole life.

He had butted heads with his father since the day he was born. There were no pictures, videos, or flowers for the occasion. On the day he went home from the hospital, his father carried him out alone.

When his father passed away in October, he imagined that tears would pour down his face and into his beard: sodden memories of the rugged, tough-loving man. But as the casket lowered into the ground, he felt nothing. He held his daughters tight as they cried for their Papa.

When November came, he knew he had to lose the beard — lose the act. He couldn’t remain mad at him. Maybe in life, but not in death.

Before the entire family came over for Thanksgiving dinner, he stood in the bathroom looking at himself, wondering how he had come to this exact moment — contemplating why he’d decided to hold on to the grudge for so long. It was a choice, after all.

That’s when the tears fell.

He didn’t let the beard catch them. They deserved better than that. He clipped it away with a pair of scissors and shaved it down with one of his wife’s razors from the shower.

When it was gone, he traced the lines, the wrinkles, the age with wonder, trying to figure out how he could take it all back.

Justin Deming lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Some of his work has been published by 50-Word Stories. He can be found on Twitter @j_deming_.