August, 22nd, 2018

“Nice beard, Man!”

A young man in the psych ward at VA hospital had called that out to me. It took me a moment to react to his comment.

The patient went on , “That’s gnarly! How long did it take you to grow that?”

I replied, “I don’t know, maybe three years or so.”

The vet smiled. “Cool. I thought it would have taken a lot longer. You braid it?”

“Uh no…it just kind of dreads itself.”

The young man nodded. “Yeah, cool.”

Karin and I just got home yesterday from a short religious retreat. We were at the Sinsinawa Mound Center, which is run by an order of Dominican sisters. Before we left the retreat house, we went to join the sisters in their morning prayer. As we were entering the chapel, an elderly sister stopped us and questioned me,

“I just have to ask you this: does your beard have some sort of spiritual significance?”

“No, I’m just too lazy to cut it.”

The woman nodded. Then she turned to Karin and asked,

“Don’t you ever get the urge in the middle of the night to turn to him and just cut it off?

Karin smiled nervously. She had heard that exact question from a number of other women. They all seemed eager to remove the offending braid of matted hair from my chin.

After morning prayer, Karin and I went to breakfast with the sisters. I got my toast and eggs, and sat down. Karin went to get her daily cappuccino. When she came to our table, she said,

“Well, your beard is a topic of conversation. One of the sisters wanted to know if you were Muslim.”

I just shook my head.





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