The best gift (OK, the only gift) that I gave my brother for Christmas was to grow a beard.
Purportedly, I grew it to amuse my wife, and to honor her family’s Thanksgiving-to-Christmas beard-growing tradition. I thought that this year, the first since Kathy’s father died, would be a good time for me to make my first-ever beard attempt.
Kathy was away for Thanksgiving, so I got an 8-day start, carefully nursing my sparse beard into life like an arctic explorer using his last match to ignite a fire. She laughed when she saw it, and so I’ve put off shaving it for some weeks, now.
But the big payoff was for my brother, who spent Christmas with us at the Refuge, as we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Mark couldn’t seem to keep his hands off my scruffy face, probably overcome with jealousy and awe at my hirsute manliness (or perhaps manly hirsuteness?). He mocked and sneered, but everyone could tell that he wished he could have a beard just like mine.
As always, I bore his impertinence with quiet dignity.
Too bad, Mark. You’re stuck in the Army for another couple of years, where facial hair is not appreciated. Maybe next I’ll grow a ponytail.