As things get tighter and money gets more scarce, we are going to have to look around and find ways to enjoy small luxuries which we used to be able to take for granted, but may have to do without now. One thing I always took for granted was being able to get a haircut. When Potluck came home from the hospital after his MRSA everything seemed to crash in on us at once. Our bank with which we had a mutually beneficial relationship was taken over by one of the big robber baron banks which wanted to put a meter around our necks and charge us for the air we breathe, as they did in those theatrical cartoons from the thirties. Our house which my Dad had built during the Great Depression after leaving his home state to escape the dust bowl went underwater. My federal pension ceased being a disability pension and became a retirement pension when I turned 62. That meant an automatic cut of $200 desperately needed dollars a month. My disability is permanent. I wonder if they think that permanent disabilities like mine just kind of go away when you reach retirement age, like the flu? Either way we, like most Americans cut our spending to the bone.
My hair however, didn’t realize what was going on so it kept growing. It is thick and wavy and since my disability, which has made me weaker over time and less able to lift my arms to wash it or care for it, had brought another painful ordeal into my life. My once preferred long hair which I had gradually had to shorten bit by bit until it was all gone in order to be able to care for it without pain was returning with a vengeance. I feel self conscious and petty complaining about this because so many people have it so much worse in so many ways, but it was one more miserable thing I had to deal with every day. Potluck had it just as bad because he wears a pacemaker which will not tolerate barber’s clippers or the clippers they use in most beauty shops. The last haircut he had was when a nurse bootlegged one for him while he was in the hospital with scissors and a razor. This was something she was not supposed to do according to her employers, but she is a very special person and did it in spite of them.
Finally when we thought we couldn’t stand being hairy monsters anymore I had an idea. We called the Multiple Sclerosis Society and asked them if they knew of anyone or any organization which cut hair for disabled people in their homes. As the economy gets tighter most organizations which deal with diseases are beginning to offer physical help of many varieties from groups who will do the work for free or for a nominal fee.
From that phone call Potluck and I got two names of two different organizations. One based on our income provided a free house cleaning once a year. They vacuumed and did all of the heavy work that could be done in three hours by two professional cleaners. We had been trying to do all of this for ourselves with mixed results, but as we got sicker and more fatigued it seemed impossibly hard. It was such a boost to have a clean sparkling house and we are going to call the MS Society back and see if they can recommend someone else for a nominal fee. We could probably manage that occasionally and not have to brave the attack of the dust worms in the corners every day.
The second gift we got from that phone call was the name of an organization of professional hair stylists who come out to the homes of people with certain types of neurological disabilities and spinal cord injuries and cut their hair. If anyone is interested in obtaining their services and lives in L.A., email us for the name of the group and they can see if you are in their service area and if you fit their eligibility criteria which is not harsh at all. It is actually pretty generous.
We didn’t really know what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised when our two stylists arrived, They were skilled, pleasant, knowledgeable about my disability and gave Potluck a free haircut because after hearing his circumstances they knew his illness did not fit their rules, but they classified him as my “caregiver.” Caregivers also get free haircuts through this program.
They used only scissors and a razor to cut and shape his hair and they did a beautiful job. He was pleased and much more comfortable than he had been. Then came Revenuer and her long, thick yeti hair. Loose it hung nearly to my waist. The stylist and I had the same idea at the same time.
She had cut hair for an organization called “Locks of Love” which takes human hair ten inches long or more which has not been colored or treated with chemicals and turns it into wigs for people with cancer and other rare illnesses which cause their hair to fall out. In 2009 Potluck lost both of his parents. His father had a massive stroke early in the year and his mother died of cancer later in the year. She had received chemo and lost her hair and she was intensely self conscious about it.
When the stylist mentioned “Locks of Love” I asked her if she could take my hair, and she did. She told me she would do all of the paperwork and preparation necessary for me. All I had to do was sign a permission form. As I signed the form I told her that this one is for my mother in law. She couldn’t benefit from it herself anymore, but maybe someone else would be spared the discomfort she had experienced and the outright mockery she suffered from TSA agents who made her remove the kerchief she had covered her head with when she came down to see us. They could see how sick she was. She was six feet tall and weighed at that time 120 pounds. Her scalp and face was covered with lesions from the chemo and she was sitting in a wheelchair begging them to take her to a private place to remove the kerchief. They laughed at her. She was still weeping when she got home and called us to tell us she was safe. That visit was the last time we ever saw her.
My haircut felt glorious. She cut it short and made it fall so that the curl in the hair made the hair style. All I have to do is wash it and brush it, and I can wash it without pain which is really what I most wanted. The stylists gave us a totebag of free beauty supplies, asked if there was anything special that we wanted for next time and today when I went to take the trash out I found a package from them with two more tote bags of free supplies. I don’t know what I will do with it all but I think I will start looking for people who want the products and arrange for a mass transfer of most of it. They will be back in three months and they will bring more when they come again.
Even though this particular group may not be able to help most of you, if you are disabled or a senior I suggest calling the organization which helps individuals with your particular medical condition or even your local senior center to see what is available. You might be pleasantly surprised and relieved of one more expense that you didn’t think you could meet. Ask about other services they offer or can steer you too as well. There are still kind people in the world and they are not as hard to find as you might think. Good luck to all of you.