It’s been almost a week since I dyed my hair, and almost six months since my grandma passed away. Beyond the word "dying," maybe the connection doesn’t make sense, but neither does the cloud of energy that’s been surrounding me the last few days– blame it on a Leo fighting for her life against Pisces season, which in its own right has me thinking about psychics, spirits, and death (dramatic, I know– but what did I say? I’m a Leo!)
I dyed my hair on 2/22, a big “manifesting” day. This was done after a first tarot reading told me to adopt an “edgier” look, and a second tarot reading told me my soulmate is a man with strong water and fire placements, a man who one day will be as willing to pick up his life and move it across the country and an ocean as I will be, back to my home, my family, and my first and maybe truest self. After leaving the salon with a fresh, flirty shock of pink in my hair, I felt an extra skip in my step, a boost in my confidence and a feeling like anything (yes, including pulling my dream man,) was possible.
But today, on 2/28, things are a little different. A few days have passed, and the sparkle of repeating numbers and affirmative manifestations have faded. My roots are as greasy as a kid’s fingers after eating a Costco pizza, now that I’ve been advised not to wash my oily Japanese scalp daily if I want to keep my new pink as popping as possible. I worked from home in my sweats, shoulders wound up to my ears, then furiously paced up and down the length of the East River before retiring to my apartment to cook a half-assed meal of shoyu, tofu, green beans and rice.
While I was scrolling through my own Instagram stories (we’ve already established I’m a Leo, this should be unsurprising,) I looked at my hair again. It took me 24 years to give this new aesthetic change a shot, and, even at my big age, I got a temperature check from my mom and dad before going through with it.
I remember the other time I added a little edge to my look. It was my first (and as of now, only,) cartilage piercing, something I had been thinking about for a while, just to myself. I got it done on a whim with my friend at the mall (at Icing, which is apparently the adult Claire’s). I of course texted my mom before walking into the store, and came home with my right ear throbbing scarlet and radiating an excessive amount of heat, with a proud steel ball punched through its curve.
While I made sure to get my mom’s approval, I completely forgot about my grandma, who at the time was 90 years old, and, when I was in high school, reminded me pretty much every day I stepped into the passenger seat of her car that my nails were “ugly” when they were not bare.
“I prefer a light pink, or even a clear polish,” she would tell my tangerine thumbs, purple pinkies and metallic middle fingers.
I took a deep breath, swung open her screen door, and showed her my new hardware.
“What you think, Grams?”
“Show me the other side.”
“What you mean, other side? I only got one done!”
“When you get your ears pierced, don’t you get two?”
“So why get one when you paid for two?”
The thought had never crossed my mind. Remembering it now, I don’t think they would have charged me for two cartilage piercings anyway, but my grandma only knew earrings in pairs, and the fact that she did not care about the placement of the piercing, but rather the price, had me shocked. Maybe old age had softened her mind not to register the “boldness” of my choice, or maybe she never really cared anyway. She always had a rebellious streak– I liked to joke that she woke up every day and chose chaos, even before, but especially after a long life lived relegated her to her green La-Z Boy next to the front door.
Which brings me back to the here and now. I wonder what she’d think of this new me. Although she passed in September, she had kind of already been gone for a while, pieces of her sticking around in those last six months just to make sure things were in order before she left us earthside. She had a stubborn streak, and that resolve translated into a patience specially reserved for her grandchildren. As me and my brothers scrambled to make flights across the country after the news of her placement in hospice, she waited, and waited, and waited, even though I can only imagine how hard it must have been, until each of us could say goodbye and tell her we’d be okay. I wonder who she remembered me as, since I had stopped living at home a year prior, and we went from holding hands and singing Japanese children's songs before making yet another shave ice run (her order was plain strawberry, mine strawberry and condensed milk,) to barely three minutes on the phone every couple months or so (she couldn’t take a call without help.) I’ve changed a lot since she started to go, and changed even more since she left. I just happened to think about it today because my hair is the first visible, external difference that made me think about the fact that things have changed in the first place.
If she's out there, I hope she’s proud of me. I hope she sees me living my life, chasing a New York job (and paycheck) while cherishing and taking pride in the pieces of Hawaii and me that she played such an instrumental role in raising. I hope she sees me trying my best to share the pieces of her I loved most with the world, since she can no longer do it herself.
At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t have much of a reaction at all. She wasn’t the most sentimental anyway– a survivalist whose actions always spoke louder than her words, which were always blunt and to the point. If anything, I’d pour my heart out, and she’d hand me a tissue, shrug her shoulders and ask if next time I’d try to paint my whole head purple, or take a stab at a perm. And I’d love her for it.