Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When My Mother Stopped Dyeing Her Hair

My mother stopped dyeing her hair about 5 years ago, aged 72.

She had cancer and was taking chemotherapy. One of the requisites was no hair coloring.

She had been dyeing her hair for I don't know how long. A son doesn't really keep track of such things.

Nor did I ever mention it, but occasionally I wondered what it would look like natural, and wondered if my mother wondered, herself.

When the time came that she had to stop dyeing it, her hair came in white like cotton, or snow: whichever cliche you like, but it was natural and beautiful.

I said to her, "You know, you should have stopped dyeing it years ago. It looks a million times better." She smiled a smile of irony, mixed with some fatalism. But she said she agreed, it was true.

I remember her going out one night. I don't remember where. But I remember she wore a soft, black jacket, and looked glamorous, and I told her so.

Her first incident of cancer had come in 1991. She survived it in excellent health. She sure stopped smoking. She enjoyed her life with the keen and humorous serenity she always had.

The second came in 2003, and she did not survive. But she had had a decade, more, to live and grow older with her husband, and see her grandchildren grow up.

We miss her terribly, of course. We love her for who she was and what she gave us.

Today, the Cancer Resource Center of Ithaca is holding a vigil in remembrance of those lost to cancer. There will be music, by my mother Patsy's son, Patrick Burke, and his friend Richie Stearns. The event is at 7:30 in Dewitt Memorial Park, at Buffalo and Cayuga Streets.

Stephen Burke

No comments: