A military hair brush
My good friend Cate gave to me
As a token of esteem
More than 35 years ago
Boar bristles. oval walnut handle
Form and function, a thing of beauty
For decades I used it to align
My gently thinning hair
Its solidity in my hand
Its understated elegance
Feeling rather elegant myself.
Just by proximity
The firm command of its bristles
Keeping me presentable
Through courtship and marriage
To someone else
An elder son, grown to manhood
And took a fancy to the brush
I can assume.
Because he brought it to college
Without a by-your-leave
Or perhaps fancy wasn't involved
Maybe it was the casual assumption
Of the well-loved
That the world will offer and he accept
Or not, as is his pleasure.
Anyway, I politely inquired after the brush then
Discovering its fate
Let the matter drop
"I would have given it to him,"
I told my wife.
"Had he asked."
And bought another brush
A six-dollar rubberized
Bed, Bath & Beyond Conair brush
Neither cheap nor luxurious
Functional nylon bristles
Still up to the task of tending
My gently thinning hair.
Frankly, I forgot about my wooden brush
Until it reappeared, along with my son
For the Thanksgiving holiday.
He, a fine, sleek, 24
The brush, at least a decade older
On the lip of the sink upstairs
Showing its age, the wood dry
The bristles thick with his own blond
Gently thinning hair
Did I consider swapping the brushes?
But that is not what happened.
What I did was bring up a bottle of furniture oil
And a soft cloth
Then gently rubbed the oil in the walnut handle
Twice, until it shone fresh
I took a comb and carefully removed
His gently thinning hair
And set the brush, renewed
Back upon the sink
And quietly slunk away
With a smile of paternal happiness.
I cannot give him much
In the way of stocks or bond or real estate
Few business contacts
Fewer objects worth inheriting
But I can give the gift of
A military hair brush.