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Finding Hope in a Haircut

MEGAN CATTEL, HOST: And now for the next installment in our commentary series. Reporter Anya Schultz wonders if she’ll ever stack up to her parent’s love story.

ANYA SCHULTZ: There’s a photo on the fridge in my childhood home that I love. It’s of my parents before their prom. They’re smiling, my mom in a short black dress with white straps. My dad, handsome and tall.


It was the sixties in Los Angeles. Randy, my dad, played guitar in a rock band. Vicki, my mom, was quick-witted and smart. But, when my mom went off to college, they broke up and lost touch.

Not long after, my dad had a terrible hiking accident. It left him paralyzed with a spinal cord injury.


After months in the hospital, he moved to rehabilitate up in the mountains near San Francisco. He met a guitar player named Willy, who became his best friend. After years of intense physical therapy, my dad learned how to live in a wheelchair. He drove a car and became a computer programmer. He loved going to concerts and movies with Willy and Willy’s girlfriend Lisa, a hairdresser from Italy.


Meanwhile, my mom moved to San Francisco and despite the sexism of the seventies, she became an attorney. She had serious boyfriend after serious boyfriend. But none of them felt right. She still thought about my dad. She heard he was in some type of accident. She didn’t know how to find him.


One day, my mom went to get her hair cut from the same hairdresser she’d been seeing for eight years, Lisa, Willy’s girlfriend. When Lisa complained her back hurt, my mom said, “you should call my chiropractor.” But Lisa said, “no, if I was going to see one, it would be from my friend who’s in a wheelchair.” She went on and on about her friend and how wonderful he was. My mom asked his name. Lisa said Randy. My mom turned white.


After 20 years, my parents’ reconnection was instant. People asked my mom why she would want to be with a disabled person; she said my dad was the least disabled person she’d ever dated.


But their relationship wasn’t always easy. My dad almost died of cancer when I was three. And over the years he lost physical function of his body. When he could no longer lift a fork, my mom fed him bites of food. When he couldn’t talk, my mom would ask Alexa to play John Prine or Jeff Beck or whatever my dad wanted to hear. Through all of this, my dad still made her laugh.


Willy and Lisa split up years ago, but they’re best friends. Willy played guitar for my dad in the hospital before he died. Lisa cuts everyone in my family’s hair.


As I get older, I worry that I’ll never find love as strong as my parents. How could I meet someone that important on a dating app with a name I can’t even remember? I called Lisa to ask her what she thinks.


SCHULTZ: Do you think I’m screwed because I have such high expectations now?

LISA: No, no, Anya bella, no. You are the fruit of your mom and dad, of this beautiful love story. You come from love, love, love. We have to believe what we don’t know. That beautiful things can happen in our life. Even if we make a decision on our own, Anya, that doesn't mean it's gonna happen. We don't know. We have to have an open heart and to know that we are guided somehow in a beautiful, loving way like your mom and dad.


SCHULTZ: I like thinking about the 20 years when my parents weren’t together. How my dad learned to live a happy and full life in a wheelchair. And how my mom built a career and ended up becoming best friends with her hairdresser.


I like to think that’s where I’m at now, planting the seeds for my own life. Going to graduate school. Moving to a new city. Maybe my first photo with my future partner has already been taken. Or maybe it hasn’t.


I don’t know if I’ll have a remarkable love story, like my parents. Or if I’ll meet someone online or at the checkout stand or at a bar. My parents have taught me not to focus too much on that. Instead, to keep doing the little things. Help out my friends. Trust my decisions. And get my haircut.

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