By Daris Howard
People often ask me why I look like I do, so let me explain. My two youngest daughters wanted to try out for the local production of A Christmas Carol, so I joined them for some father daughter time. As we filled out the paper at auditions, it asked what part we would consider. I put that I would be happy with no part at all and could just work on my next book while I waited for my daughters. But, I wrote, if they had a small part that needed to be filled, I would help out.
They asked me to read the part for Scrooge, and I did. Later that evening they called and asked me to come for call backs. I did, and the next day I received an email asking me to take that part.
I had to consider it for a while. I had just had knee replacement surgery, and, besides spending lots of time in therapy, I was still in a lot of pain. In addition, I had extra work at the university, and was also trying to prepare my next book for publication. As I took the few days allotted for me to respond, one of the people in charge said they hoped I would take the part because Scrooge needed to be mean, and I was the only one who acted mean enough. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not, but I did decide to take the part.
Once I had accepted, I was asked if I could grow mutton chops for it. For those who don’t know, chops are long sideburns to the chin. Because I work at a religious university with a dress and grooming code where chops are not allowed, it took a little time to get permission. But, within two weeks, the chops had come in thick, I felt that I already looked really stupid, and I still had months to go.
I teach music to the children at the church I attend, and they hadn’t seen me for those two weeks, so they were curious as to why I looked like I did. “Well,” I joked, “I am in a play, and back in that time period, men would compete to see how ugly they could get.”
One darling little four-year-old excitedly worked to get my attention. When I called on her, she spoke enthusiastically. “You are doing a good job. I think you’re going to win.”
My students at the college started calling me Wolverine, and I didn’t even know what that meant until one of them brought me a picture from X-Men.
One Sunday afternoon I laid down for a nap. In the middle of it a fly landed on my newly grown whiskers. In my sleep I reached up to swat it away. In doing so my hand brushed my new facial hair, and, in my sleepy state, I thought some kind of caterpillar was crawling on my face. I grabbed it and pulled, and the pain brought me completely out of my sleep.
When my daughter and her children came to visit from California, my three-year-old grandson looked at me and said, “Grandpa, you look…” He paused, so I filled in. “Stupid?” He nodded. “Yeah.”
When my twenty-two-year-old son came home from college for Thanksgiving, he looked at me and just started laughing, unable to talk. People that I know, and say hi to, just stare at me. Others, knowing where I work, ask if I have retired, and I’m not that old.
And today, I went to pick up my daughter. She was at an after school activity. I parked the van and went in to tell her I was ready to go home. I finally found a group in the cafeteria that looked like it might be hers. As I approached them, one girl in the group turned and stared at me. She then turned back to the others and said, “Don’t look now, but there is a really creepy guy here.” My daughter poked her head up above the group, saw me, and called out, “Hi, Dad.”
But I’m a grown man, so why would looking like this bother me? I mean, I only have thirteen days, five hours, and twenty minutes until the end of the last performance when I can shave them off, but who’s counting?