I have to run. My mother, Mrs. Joy, who was born on July 4, is trying to give me one of her famous Tennessee bowl-over-the-head straight razor haircuts. Let's just call it butchery from back in the Old Country. I can't keep doing this. I can't keep getting haircuts from my mother. I must call my grandfather for help. Mr. Vaughn served this country proudly during two different wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. So when I say his word counts, you can take it to the bank. He is retired Army now. On numerous occasions he has had to get onto my mother for doing crazy things. I could always see it but never heard it. You always just saw him come and go and my mother would be doing things differently after. Mr. Vaughn would not let this happen! This time I feel I am too late. Hopefully this time it's not too bad. Ever since I was a little boy, my mother would give me these crazy haircuts that looked like something out of a Jim Albert Varney movie. When it came to cutting hair, my mother, Mrs. Joy, would put a bowl over my head in three different angles that produced a haircut that she called "The Wedge." For your imagination, I will tell you, the bowl my mother used was big, porcelain, and blue. It was also ten times uglier than the 50 year old Swedish tobacco stained, petrified wood-looking lady you would ever see that made it. Then there was the straight razor to form any of my mother's famous edges.
Subsequently, I was always scarred up with little red slits along the perimeter of my hair line, giving me a kind of half-hearted scalping. The edging looked as if the person just didn't quite know how to scalp me, so they just gave up. The end result: my mother's famous scalp- oops, I mean edgings.
School was an absolute horror. In sixth grade, mid-March on a cool, sunny day with plenty of light shining down from the sky illuminating every piece of matter it touched, giving the common eye a high definition view of what nature had to offer: trees, cars, buildings, glass, and the imperfections on a 12 year old, insecure young man. When the sun hit my head there was a spotlight on my uneven wave of hair that stretched from the right side of my head back around to the left. There was nothing even about my mop top; it all pretty much came down to the center of my head in a rhythm that resembled the tidal waves of the monsoon rain season in Japan. The rain pushes the water up from the ocean into waves and then gravity brings them back down into currents and all the red scratches resembling scars like little slits that traced my hairline in the color of crimson. It quickly became visible to my classmates — I was given a homemade haircut. Kids are mean, but sometimes they can be downright nasty. In gym class the looks of humor and humiliation started pouring in. My self confidence on that day started to shrivel to nothing and insecurity set in as one particular school mate, named Anthony Soto. He was a short, brown complected, rat faced little guinea pig, and he started to make fun of the different levels of hair I had. At that moment, my frustration and anger just gave way to free will. I punched him square in the nose. In agony and pain, Anthony shouts out in a screeching tone, "He's trying to kill me!" I swing over and over, and as tears fall from my eyes, the kids are no longer yelling and cheering. They are quiet. This fight is no longer a fight; it's just sad. All you could hear was silence. All you could see was my fist hitting his face over and over. I kept going until his face looked like a bruised tomato. My mind and heart was in ugh. How could I do this to another human being over a haircut? Never again. I must call my grandfather, Mr. Vaughn.
My fists they hurt; red swellings pulsating up and down; tooth impressions on my middle and index fingers. I believe my hand may be fractured. The outcome was suspension for five days for fighting in the Krueger Middle School gymnasium. For me and my personal interest, this crazy haircut scenario, the feelings of being so vulnerable and weak, I feel will never separate from my mind, body and soul. I will carry this disaster all the way through eternity. My mother, Mrs. Joy, didn't say much, nor did she even bother to look at me that night. For reasons I would not dare to fathom, she feels bad. I can see it in my mother. It was understood that she would no longer touch my hair. My grandfather tells me "I'm on my way and I'm very disturbed and worried about you." I can picture his face now; the stress lines combing down the sides of his face from years of hard work and images of the unspeakable atrocities those others committed in war time. His voice will be firm, non-questionable. His stature presents itself as tall and healthy. His mere presence will command authority and respect. In my very own presence he makes me feel like I must stand up straight, in parade rest with a well practiced salute. He makes me feel like I have respect for myself and him as well. The doorbell! As I peek out the window, I see him standing there just like I imagined. Dust still flying in the air from the abrupt stop on gravel road being whisked away by the cool breeze of the evening March winds. And now as the sun goes down, he stands as my savior the Lord sent to me. He is here to put his foot down. As my mother unlocks the door with hesitation, the door is quickly jerked open, acting as a vacuum and sucking up all the warm air from inside and mixing it with the cool from outside, causing a warm-like cold rush of wind that catches your attention. Almost in a shocking and paralyzing way, mother quickly apologizes, being completely submissive and obedient out of respect for the man that gave her life. Surprisingly, his first response was not a statement, but a question. In a man-like, firm tone he asked, "Do we know what's going on here?" I just looked with a thousand yard gaze, knowing the questions was rhetorical. What was going on was my mother, that butcher, is no longer allowed to touch my hair. My mother bowed her head in contempt and just nodded. He spoke and that Sunday he took me to get a haircut, and under no circumstances was his daughter, my mother, Mrs. Joy, to ever set that bowl over my head to cut my hair again. He asks for the bowl in which he referred to as the root of all evil in this house. As quickly as he was there, he stormed over in a marching manner to the right side of the cabinet, towards the back of the kitchen, just above the sink right next to the refrigerator with meticulously designed photos and groceries and opened the door and peacefully took the blue angel hair cutting bowl out of the cabinet and briskly, but steadily, marched quietly outside the house and into the car and without saying goodbye, he was gone and so was that bowl. On that day, I learned what respect is, and years down the line I realized a few other things I learned from that, not to mention figuring out that he was going to be the only man in my life I ever look up to.
A few things I learned and realized as a result of my grandfather helping me was dedication. To be dedicated so much to anything in your life is a reflection of the type of person you are. You learn that kids are important; respect is given and taken, not to mention earned. Almost 20 years later and the events that transpired on that day will forever be with me. It is not something I will ever forget because when I needed him, he was there. He did not say much; he just helped.
After that, I knew I would always be able to depend on my grandfather. So, what I pass on to my kids is the same dependability, respect and dedication. I give and take and I always know that as long as I'm giving more than I'm taking, then I know I have done the right thing. In short, I learn the most important virtues in life from the most influential person, friend, family member and adult in my life: Warrant Officer Robert Allison Vaughn.
John Vaughn is a resident of Sweetwater. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .