A Bluegrasser's Beard - Growing for the Cause!

[Ed. Note:] Bear Acker, an original member of the bluegrass band , writes this guest-blogger article.  It has no actual connection to bluegrass music with the exception of the writer and the fact that the cause can affect any man including those of us who enjoy bluegrass music.  Bear has written guest articles for us in the past so we invited him to share his recent experiences with  "Noshember"

The One Month BeardPRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS IMAGE - Alton Bear Acker, Executive Director, ASIA

By Alton “Bear” Acker

It’s October of 1966, I’m rotating stateside to be discharged from the U.S. Air Force after completion of my four-year enlistment. It’s been a long four years that started out with my first assignment at Westover AFB in Massachusetts, Headquarters 8th Air Force SAC. Daily life here is all “spit and polish” as a headquarters installation. Top this off with being in the medical corps and having to close shave a least once a day, and sometimes twice. Reflecting on that time I remember how much I had tired of scraping my face that close, and that often.

After getting into civilian life again, I decided to finish the college education I’d left after two years on campus, before the service. So it followed that as a student in the mid-60s no one looked twice at my bushy, red growth of beard. Ah, the young Viking, the coeds loved it! I kept this beard through college, and into everyday life, as a young teacher. This was the mid-70s, and no one questioned it. Life was good, and all the shaving I did was of a trimming and maintenance regimen. Still the same beard, and still all red, life was good.

Fast forward to the mid-80s and the beard is still there in its red glory. But something was happening to the young Viking, and how the beard fit his face. Time, maturation and gravity were beginning to change my youthful looks into middle age. Trim it one way, let it grow longer, nothing seemed to suit my eye. In early winter of 1984 my despondency led me to shave the growth I’d had for the past 18 years. Once again I was relegated to daily shaving, but yes, the youthful face was back, it’d been hiding all these years. I made certain to sit my two young children down so they could watch me shave. After all, they had never seen me without the beard, and I was concerned that they wouldn’t recognize me without it, unless they saw me shave it. That worked well, and they accepted this new adult in the house as their real father. The effect was pronounced, and they might not have known me otherwise.

Now let’s fast-forward to the morning of November 1st, (2013) and upon rising, seeing the Today Show my wife had on. Prefix this with my having shaved the previous morning, and listening to the male cast members that morning, pledge to not shave during the month of November, to bring attention to testicular and prostate cancer. This was termed “Noshember”, short for No-Shave-November, and it seemed like a good reason to give up the razor for a month. After all, the fight against time and gravity had been a continuously losing battle, and I thought that hiding the sags and bags under some new plumage would be a good idea. As the days passed by in succession it became obvious that it would take a lot of growth to cover what time and gravity had done! Add to that the fact, that my beard was no longer red, but the white of first snow. That’s the romantic grammatical expression, but in reality, it was gray. And with every passing day it was adding more time to my appearance. There was no trace of Erik the Red in my appearance. It was a fanciful plan to think raising a beard at this point in my life would cover the age in my face.

Nevertheless, despite the itching (I didn’t recall it bothering me years ago) and the appearance of an old derelict with a younger woman, I kept my promise to not shave during November. In my own opinion, I think I did look like an old bum, and as time went on, it just made me look worse.

I may grow it again next year, for the cause, but I’ve learned that it will be just for the cause, not for me. I hope that more men will get themselves tested, and if they do, then we will have learned a lot about ourselves. It’s just a simple blood test, and it’s easy. As for me, I will get regular testing, and think how much younger I look without a beard.

[Ed. Comments] According to the American Cancer Society, a man's lifetime chance of having testicular cancer is about 1 in 270. Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. Because treatment is so successful, the risk of dying from this cancer is very low: about 1 in 5,000.  For more information, visit the American Cancer Society's webpage: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/overviewguide/testicular-cancer-overview-key-statistics

No comments: