The life that Libby and I shared together had some pretty major milestones during our courtship and marriage including our first date when Helen Hawkins (aka Hamburger Helper) hit a cow on the road in front of us, then there was our wedding on June 9, 1979, the purchase of our first house which cost $14,000 but took $10,000 to repair, the birth of each one of our two boys and then there was Cancer.
Cancer so changed our lives that we would sometimes categorized past events using the abbreviations BC (Before Cancer) or AC (After Cancer). Like it or not, Libby’s cancer diagnosis was a watershed moment in our lives and it was as much a part of us as our wedding and our children. For fifty years (BC) Libby had been known as a beloved daughter, a sweet sister and a role model for others, then as an adult she was known as a gorgeous bride, an excellent teacher and a loyal friend. But then (AC) Libby’s identity changed to cancer patient who constantly amazed others by making the best of a bad situation.
Libby’s particular type of breast cancer needed estrogen to survive and grow, so to slow the cancer’s progress her oncologist immediately prescribed an estrogen suppressant which had it’s own unique set of problems, most notable were the intense hot flashes which happened several times every hour. It didn’t take a keen awareness to determine the moment when one of Libby’s hot flashes started because, if we were alone at the house, her the wig would suddenly fly across the room followed by her jacket which she couldn’t seem to get off fast enough. Throwing her wig across the room became much less common after one particularly high arching toss resulted in an unfortunate encounter with the living room ceiling fan.
Some of the nicer wigs that Libby bought were Raquel Welch brand wigs, one of which had become her favorite until the day that she was cooking supper at my dad’s house. While trying to determine if the cornbread was brown on the bottom Libby opened the lower oven door and leaned over to inspect the cornbread as 450 degrees air wafted up out of the oven and quickly “baked” her synthetic wig melting the individual hairs together as they shrank and retreated away from her face. Libby was unfazed by the heat but her favorite red wig cooled quickly into a cohesive permanent wave on top of her head.
The thought came to me so quickly that I really didn’t have time to apply a filter, and besides I thought a humorous comment by me could relieve some of the awkward tension in the kitchen, but I have to admit that it sounded a lot funnier in head than it did when I said, “Your Raquel Welch wig looks a lot like a Donald Trump hairpiece.”
The synthetic wigs were very durable (well, except for the one she baked) easy to care for and easy to style, but one particular evening I discovered a completely unexpected benefit of having a large collection of wigs.
Libby and I were getting ready to go out and meet another couple for dinner and as Libby stood in front of the full length mirror she asked, “How does this outfit look?” Now, in times past I had fallen into that sticky trap of answering that question incorrectly so I said, “That looks great!” I wasn’t lying to her because I thought she looked good in nearly everything she wore. However, I must have lacked sufficient enthusiasm in my comment because she responded, “You’re right, the colors are all wrong”.
This is where years of husbandly experience came in handy and although I knew that we would be late, I knew too that it would be unwise to ask Libby to hurry up. I did, however, know exactly what to do in this situation; I went to the living room, located my TV remote, sat down in my recliner and turned on the football game as I prepared for the fashion show that would soon start in our living room as Libby went through several combinations of outfits.
I knew also that I had to be mentally prepared to give a much more enthusiastic reply when Libby modeled the next outfit if we had any hope of making our dinner reservations. I rotated the side arm on my recliner to extend the footrest just as Libby stepped into the living room to model her outfit. I was about to tell her how good she looked, but then I stopped myself when I realized that this must be some kind of test because she hadn’t changed clothes.
That’s when I noticed her hair, because instead of changing pants, top, shoes, pocketbook etc. she changed wigs, throwing off her brunette wig in favor of a silver one. I was genuinely impressed (by the speed of the newly coordinated colors not necessarily the colors themselves) and we were ready for our night out. We were not late, Libby felt good about the way she looked and I was finally beginning to see the benefits of owning a large supply of wigs.