Jack, Freddy, and Mike

Much of my writing is done at Jack-in-the-Box. But, more on that later (just don’t forget it). The following is a true story, although a name has been changed.

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During my high school senior year, my hair took a hike. By age twenty-four, because I worked in “showbiz”, it became necessary to embrace camouflage. I began wearing a good hairpiece (hey, c’mon now… even John Wayne wore a hairpiece.) That worked well except during periods of underemployment when professional rug maintenance no longer fit in my budget. Care and feeding of the hairpiece then became a D-I-Y project. As I had very little skill in that arena, during low-income periods my hair piece adopted the persona of dead critter.

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My wife is a special needs educator. She inspires, motivates, and loves children who need extra help. God bless her. Through her I came to know, appreciate, and understand those diagnosed with special needs. I learned that at times, an endearing trait of those dealing with autism is unfiltered, honest speech. They call ‘em like they see ‘em.

We got to know kids and their parents. We went to their “sweet sixteen” birthday parties, and backyard barbecues. Guess what? Special needs lives matter, too.

At the very large high school where my wife taught, the amazing, selfless, mainstream, teenage student body elected—totally on their own—a special needs boy and special needs girl to be football homecoming King and Queen. I not only got misty-eyed during the national anthem (common occurrence for me) but also during the football half-time coronation ceremony.

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A couple of years ago, I decided to abandon my roadkill rug. So, we had a “Shave Grandpa’s Head Party”. Our grandkids sat down as I stood up and turned my back to them. I pulled the hair off my head from front-to-back and turned around to their wide-eyed shock and awe. They pointed, laughed hysterically, and literally rolled on the floor. Worth every ounce of my personal discomfort.

I said, “What did you expect? Feathers?” (Borrowing Wally Boag’s line from the ancient Disneyland Golden Horseshoe Revue.)

Then I said, “God only made a few perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair.” (Borrowing Warren Duffy’s line from KKLA.)

Then, the youngest granddaughter put my expired hairpiece on the dog’s head. Now that was funny! It looked better on the dog than it did on me.

Each kid got a turn with the electric hair trimmer to shave bald stripes into what was left of my own hair. Truly memorable.

* * * * *

Flash forward a year. Me and my laptop have breakfast together just about every morning at Jack-in-the-Box. The Jack pack knows me and everybody knows my name (it’s my version of Cheers). One of their full-time employees, Freddy, is high-functioning autistic. He’s professional and a nice guy.

One morning I placed my order and gave Freddy my credit card. I had a shaved head but, the picture on my card still had the old me with good store-bought hair. Freddy paused, looked at my picture on the credit card, then looked back at me. He looked again at the credit card, and then stared at me. He held my credit card out at arm’s length and studied the situation, his eyes flicking between me and the credit card picture.

Finally satisfied, Freddy ran the card, and said, “Earl, did you know you used to have hair?”

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Kevin Oxley, the lead character in my novel, Wild Blue, created a new homemade bumper sticker. He’s letting me reproduce it here. Thanks, Ox man.

Different doesn’t automatically mean

bad or wrong. It just means different.

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“Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”

—Oscar Wilde

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In closing … one of my favorite pastors, a dear friend whom I’ll call Mike (because that’s his name) taught a class based on the Latin saying, carpe diem which, loosely translated, means “Seize the day”.

I adopted carpe diem as one of my life fundamentals. At least, I did until that hair party. Now, with grandkids in tow, I have switched to carpet diem. (“Seize the rug”)

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