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Stephen Kata

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Of Braided Hair and Toilet Paper
by Stephen Kata   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, April 05, 2011

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Stephen Kata

The Journey That Is Grief
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Autobiographical essay.

I don't remember why I was rummaging around in the vanity drawer. My wife and I kept important papers there when she was alive, so I suppose the reason was somewhere along that line. I only remember finding the hair.  

She must have worn it very long at some time before I knew her, and had it cut off. Under some things in the bottom of the drawer, and secured at each end with rubber bands, I discovered two long braids of auburn hair. Amazed, I held the precious relics in my hands. Here was something that was once a part of my dear wife: an extension of her body. I thought back on our many precious years together, some better than others, as all marriages go. I thought of the good times, and of sometimes not so good. I recalled the first argument I can remember in which we were involved.

It was about toilet paper. I had recently changed a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, and while this will usually please anyone's wife, it aggravated mine. I had replaced the roll so that it unrolled from the bottom. I was about to learn that she vehemently preferred it unrolled from the top.

My toilet unrolling methodology was simple. My mother did it that way, so I followed suit. Now the apparent stupidity of this practice was explained; how it even reflected on my ancestry. We went back and forth -- she explaining the ignorance of my method and I explaining how the whole subject was ridiculous to even argue. And so on. I don't remember the argument ending to either one's satisfaction. I walked away from it scratching my head in disbelief at what had just happened. But it made me think.

I thought for several hours after I cooled off. And I concluded, ridiculous as the whole matter was to me, it was obviously important to her. If in this instance, all that was required to achieve peace and even make her happier was for me to make a simple change of habit, then it was a small price to pay. Henceforth, when I changed a roll of toilet paper, I replaced it so it rolled off from the top. I can't recall that she ever thanked me, but it didn't matter. We never argued about toilet paper again. 

As I gazed at the two braids of hair I still held in my hands, one of the rubber bands disintegrated into brittle pieces. The braids had lain there so long nothing was any longer needed to hold them in place, so I set them back down and closed the drawer. Then I sat on the end of the bed. 

My mind became lost in thought. How many things we argue over in a relationship and demand our rights for, sometimes daily! Most are of absolutely no earth-shattering significance. The underlying cause for our vehement self-defense is usually simply that we don't want to change, especially if it's something we don't think necessary to change. But in any close relationship, if something is important to your partner, it doesn't matter how insignificant, or even ridiculous, you perceive it. He or she considers it important, and you had better take it seriously or you set yourself up either for a lifetime of arguing over the same tedious subjects, or eventual separation. The person who goes into a marriage, or any kind of intimate relationship, thinking he or she is not going to be required to change, sets oneself up for a fall.

Braided hair brought the memory to mind, but the lesson was learned from toilet paper.

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