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Dad's morning ritual

NO matter how early I awoke, Daddy was always up ahead of me - and smiling! I'd hear his beloved big-band music playing and wander in to observe his shaving ritual from the vantage point of the rickety rattan stool. It was a time, before the bustle of the day, when we could discuss or joke or just smile contentedly at each other in the mirror. The smell of Prep shaving cream, Mennen talc, and Old Spice mingled as he told me anecdotes of the day before or stories of long ago. It was impossible not to laugh when you were around him, because he made you feel so good.

The orderliness of his actions fascinated me as he spread the hot washcloth on his face to soften his beard, then rang it out in his precise way, wiping the basin with a flourish. His various accouterments, including the transistor radio, were arranged neatly around the sink. He was incapable of being untidy, and this morning exercise was just an early start to that standard. A remarkable combination of structure and serendipity, my dad managed both to teach and entertain while ``doing his whiskers.''

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Always enchanted by him, I'd pour out my observations of various annoyances or joys. He always called me ``Meddy'' at those times, because it was just the two of us and that was his private name for me. It was his way of cuddling me verbally.

My dad's gone now, but his love isn't. I wear it wrapped around me like a cloak. And every time I smell Old Spice, I'm with him again.

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