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Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

or those of us firmly ensconced in retirement, lifestyle changes during the coronavirus lockdown have been minimal. It’s mostly been about staying home while we observe the adjustments being made by our country, our state, our community, our friends, and our families. We’ve been catching up on our honey-do’s, watching movies, reading more, and trying to conserve our horde of toilet paper.

It’s not been without adjustments, though. We’re using the internet for happy hours with friends, church, and the gym (who’d a thunk it?). We miss going out for occasional meals. This year’s vacation is on hold, probably canceled. We worry about the Covid-19 fatality rate of those our age.

I have to admit to being surprised by the persistent shortages (and long lines) at grocery stores. I’d expected there would be natural limits to the hording. Surely our pantries and refrigerators must be full by now. It turns out I hadn’t realized that, pre-lockdown, half our food supply went to eating establishments. It seems that restaurant-grade 50-pound sacks of flour and 5-pound tubs of butter aren’t crossing the divide into retail. But I gotta’ say, were we really using half our toilet paper away from home?

Now we hear there is a shortage of DIY hair coloring. Since hairdressers are non-essential businesses, beautification has gone the way of movie theaters. Our gray-fighting warriors are missing in action. Sure, the females of our species are perhaps more prone to be concerned about gray. But trust me, there are plenty of men who’ve gotten on that bandwagon as well. If the hair dye shortage continues much longer, it’ll be interesting to note men’s hair and beard color changes in the days and weeks ahead.

Rather than rush to see if Amazon can step in as our hair color pusher, this could actually be a good time to go with the flow, accept Mother Nature’s reality, and embrace our gray. Until we come up with the means of mitigating her pandemic onslaught, we have little choice but to adapt. In the grand scheme of things, more gray is the least of our worries. So, let’s consider skipping the L’Oreal and Grecian Formula and letting the gray shine through.

It’s unfortunate that the color gray has come to signify loss — loss of youthful beauty and vitality, and a symbol of the physical decline that comes with age. Wouldn’t it be better, especially now, to contemplate what we gain as we gray? If we’ve lived long enough to have gray, we’ve gained wisdom to go with those years. Our mistakes and failures along the way made us better … and stronger. If we’re lucky, we’ve been able to become a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, a great-uncle, a trusted mentor. We’ve seen things that made our heart break. But we’ve also seen things that made our heart soar.


By accepting our gray, we accept our place among the elders. By accepting our gray, we accept our responsibility to show the way for the coming generations. By accepting our gray, we take our rightful place in line for eventual induction into the Hall of Ancestors.

Last week my son asked me if I had experienced anything like this during my lifetime. He probably asked because of my gray hair. I told him I’d, indeed, lived through some interesting times — a presidential assassination, the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, Watergate, gasoline shortages, stagflation, 9/11. But no, I told him, nothing like this.

I went on to say that his grandfather, my dad, who passed away a couple of years ago, could have told him what it was like, as a teenager, to live through World War II. It’s probably the nearest thing to what we’re going through now. I wish I could remember more of Dad’s stories. And I wonder if his great-grandsons, now teenagers, will have similar tales to tell their children and grandchildren when their hair turns gray.

Written by

Retired engineer; former university faculty; sometime statewide political candidate; part-time raconteur and provocateur.

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