I have a sticky note (or several) over my desk where I scribble ideas for blog posts. Some are there only to note important moment for myself and never go farther and that’s okay. Others bloom into larger ideas and grace these pages. And a few stare at me for awhile until I feel I can do them justice and then, when I can’t, make it to a garbage can (it happens). This month, the word Movember has been staring at me since November 1. Not only has the word been staring at me every time I sit down at my desk, but my husband’s beard has also been staring. Getting darker, more present, more permanent looking.

I feared this sticky would make it to the trash. I haven’t yet felt the ability to do it justice. But today, I realized, it wasn’t about doing it justice. It was about doing it. Kind of like my hubby’s beard.

Every November, the hubby participates in Movember. Every October, I forget and then wonder why he looks like a mess of stubble and scraggle on November 2. Every year the kids tease him to “SHAVE!” and “No hairy kisses” at bedtime. Every year, November comes quickly on the heels of the anniversary marking my uncle’s passing due to prostate cancer four years ago.

Four years ago. Wow.

My mother-in-law often says that my hubby was never great at expressing his feelings or emotions. His family often considers him stoic and aloof, I think. That’s not the man I know, but maybe because I grew up with a father who was probably perceived as stoic and aloof by his own family, I know better how to read those emotional signals. I know when a look means the hubby is upset, when a silence means he’s deeply saddened, when a choke that nearly sounds like a laugh is really a swallowed sob of anguish. I know what questions to ask. I know that he doesn’t share things with just anyone and often makes decisions about whether his sharing would help or hurt a situation, choosing to keep his own feelings to himself in order to better serve another person or situation.

So I know that every November, when the hair starts growing in, this is his way of dealing with the loss of my uncle.

In my family, the in-laws are the out-laws. A rag-tag bunch of cut-ups who married into a large Catholic family and bonded over the crazy that was our clan. There were horrible gag gifts to my grandparents through the years that took on epic proportions. There were jokes and side conversations and safety for the newer members who were navigating this noisy, established group and may have felt fish out of water. My uncle, the self-appointed out-law ringleader, welcomed my husband to the family, and more importantly to this sub-family. My often quiet hubby, found a place, friends, men and women he respected.

Every November, my hubby puts himself out there in a public way. The guy who wants to help others shine (I know, because he does it for me every day), grows hair on his face to draw attention to himself for a change. And with every person who asks, “Hey, what’s with the new look?” he can talk about my uncle. He can raise awareness (and maybe a little money) for prostate cancer.

And every November 29th, he asks the kids how his mustache should look. They goof around and make silly suggestions and he cuts away the beard into myriad shapes suggested by the boys eventually sporting some ridiculous mustachioed concoction for the final day of the month. I roll my eyes and move on and smile inside.

After all, these Movember moments — the teasing the boys give the hubby, the silly things they tell him to do with his beard, the giggling that ensues when the hubby threatens to punish them for taking too long to brush their teeth with beard kisses — are all moments he will have forever with his boys. Maybe more importantly, they will be memories the boys have of their father. Father-son moments. Moments my cousins have in their memory with their father.

Every November, the hubby grows out his facial hair. And hopefully helps make it so some other future guy can simply share a beer with that uncle/father/brother/son/neighbor/best man/friend/coworker, instead of growing a mustache to remember him.


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