I stole the first half of my story from my husband, with some of the details changed. My immigrant grandfather/g’grandfather were farmers, not steelworkers 😉
I don’t know when my grandfather lost his eyebrows.
I know how, of course. He was a steelworker until his joints failed, until his legs and his hands would no longer let him do the work that had built our family.
But I don’t know when. He had, as far as I’d known, never had eyebrows. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realize that other people’s grandfathers did have eyebrows; my grandfather’s brothers – as well as two of his sons and seven of his nephews – had all been steelworkers as well.
It was that sort of town, where I grew up.
So that is the memory I hold when it comes to eyebrows: looking at my grandfather when I was fifteen, and for the first time seeing that he had no eyebrows.
And then, fifteen years later, I looked in the mirror and realized I had lost my eyebrows.
We’re not a fair family, and we’re not prone to thin eyebrows. I had to have been losing them for months, maybe longer than that. Black eyebrow hair after black eyebrow hair, falling out, never noticed. Until they were all gone, and I stared at my grandfather’s face in the mirror.
Younger, of course; I had never known my grandparents as anything other than people in their sixties, seventies, eighties. But with the eyebrows gone, the chinline was so clearly his, the nose the one he’d brought over on a boat.
“I didn’t want to say anything,” my best drinking buddy confided. “I figured it was like losing your hair, you know?”
“If you hadn’t noticed soon, I was going to say something,” my girlfriend allowed. “Here’s the WebMd page. Unless you’ve been plucking your eyebrows…”
“You look good,” my mother smiled. “Like my father. Have you lost weight?”
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