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Monday, May 28, 2001

My dad was a soldier in World War II. He didn't die in the war, or I wouldn't be here. In fact, I'm not sure what he did in the war, just that he came out of it the same way he went in, as a U.S. Army private.

He's been gone for fourteen years now, and I'm sorrier every year that we didn't ask him more about his wartime experience. I remember his mentioning England, Ireland and France, but not telling us how he got to those places, or when or why.

We didn't talk much when I was growing up, my dad and I. I envy the much closer relationship my nephews have always had with their father. They probably don't even realize how lucky they are, but I don't think that matters, really.

From as early as I can remember, Dad was a barber. He gave me almost every haircut I ever had, until the last couple of years, when he was too ill. He practiced on me when I was a baby, relieving me of the blond curls I sported for my first two years. When I was ten, he gave me a flat-top, precursor to the buzz cut of recent years. He hated the longer hairstyles of the sixties and seventies, but as I grew up he did his best to accommodate me.

Suzanne has honored Dad's memory by collecting barber paraphernalia. Over the weekend, she acquired her heart's desire, a working barber pole identical to the one that stood outside the door to Dad's shop. It now replaces the porch light by her back door.

Dad died of cancer at the age of 63. As far as I know, he was neither a hero nor a casualty of the war. But somehow Memorial Day seems an appropriate time to remember him.

Suzanne's barber pole

Mom and I went to see Shrek this afternoon, along with millions of other kids. In fact, the showing we stood in line for was sold out long before we got to the box office, so we got tickets to the following show and went next door for a cup of coffee while we waited.

Our patience was rewarded with one of the smartest, funniest movies I've seen in a while. It's much more than the toilet humor mentioned in the reviews. If the perfect family film is one that children, teenagers and adults can all enjoy at their own levels, then this is that film.

Shrek presents a satirical take on many different aspects of popular culture, but it's a gentle skewering, never mean-spirited. At heart a fairy tale, it's also a take-off on every fairy tale ever told. Along the way, it gives a humorous nudge to all things Disney, along with professional wrestling, martial arts movies, and so much more.

Plus, it has the romantic musical montage to end all romantic musical montages. And the performances by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow are a delight. The movie has so many layers (like an onion) that I'd see it again tomorrow.

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