This past week the wonderful attendants who care for him shaved his face clean. It is a matter of ease and cleanliness especially when it comes to mealtimes, but the long and the short of it is that the moustache that he had so lovingly cultivated for most of his life is now but a memory consigned to the family photo albums.
Last year when he was still able to make his feelings known, he was adamant about keeping his hairy upper lip. It was an important part of how he saw himself and he was very negatively vocal when the idea of becoming clean-shaven was broached.
This whole episode has me thinking a great deal about identity. How do we view ourselves and what are those things, tangible or inconspicuous, that go into defining who we are? Are we the labels that others ascribe to us, or is there more to us than the obvious and the visible?
As my time as a Cantorial Soloist draws to a close, I have been asked a lot of questions by a lot of people.
"Aren't you a bit young to retire?" (God bless these deluded souls!)
"Won't you miss it?" (Absolutely!)
"You're so good at it. Why would you want to leave?" (The time is right!)
And of course the biggie....
"What are you going to do next?"
Thank you to all who have cared enough to grill me. It has allowed me some serious moments of self-reflection. The truth is that I honestly don't know what is coming next. I plan on taking it one day at a time for a bit while I decompress. Hopefully something will present itself to me and if not, hopefully I will present something new and different to myself. But I have come to realize that contrary to my previous thoughts on the subject about how I define myself, I am much more than what I do. I have truly loved my work and I have viewed it very much as a calling, but the time has come to add new and obscure labels of self-identification.
Maybe I'll grow a moustache?