The Wig

October 20, 2013

I was nine years old when my Grammie came to live with us! She gave up her teaching career, her house, and her friends to move from Detroit to Seattle for chemo and radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She bravely underwent a bilateral mastectomy prior to the move. I was thrilled to have my Grammie come live with us but did not really understand what cancer; chemo and radiation were, except it seemed serious.
Prior to starting her treatments, my Grammie found a fantastic wig that looked remarkably like her short salt and peppery colored hair. After Grammie’s first round of chemo, her hair started falling out in clumps. I remember her sitting quietly in the kitchen as my mom cut her hair very short so her bald spots would not be as obvious. I know she probably wanted to cry but she smiled at me and reminded me of the awesome wig she had waiting in the bathroom. Around the house she quite often wore a hat or a scarf but for fancy occasions she wore “the wig”. It was nearing Christmas and my Grammie was feeling pretty strong, so to lift her spirits my mom and Grammie went downtown to do some holiday shopping. They were browsing in the cosmetics department at Nordstrom when a salesman called my mom over to try a new lipstick. Now, Grammie never wore a stitch of makeup but he called her over and insisted she needed to be pampered. He put some lipstick on my Grammie and said, “Oh, look how beautiful you look, young lady, now the final touches,” and then he reached to fluff her hair and… Fhwhoop! He knocked her wig clear off! His face turned the most violent shade of red they had ever seen, and then he got all choked up. He ran around the counter and helped Grammie grab the wig. My mom and Grammie’s eyes met, and the strange silence of the scene soon exploded into musical laughter. The joyous sound of a sick old woman mixed with the pure giggle of my mom filled the small make-up counter and interrupted the normal cha-chings, beeps, and murmurs of the Nordstrom store. Anyone who looked upon the two would’ve have thought they’d gone mad. The salesman, who was still emotional, excused himself for a few minutes to regain his composure, as the laughing attack continued. When he returned, with water daring to break the barrier of his eyelashes, his cheeks still a rosy red; he apologized profusely his voice cracking as he did so. Grammie could still hardly speak and contain herself from all the spontaneous laughter. She assured him that it was the best laugh she had enjoyed in months.
In the weeks following, Grammie returned to Nordstrom and ran into the same salesman. His face still turned the same hue of red and he told her it was one of the worst days of his life but she reassured him that it was one of the best days of hers! Every time my Grammie laughs and recounts her story, it reminds me that laughter is quite often the best medicine and to be careful whose hair you fluff, for it might just be “the wig”!
Lauren Brigolin