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My Father, the Green Man:

My Dad identified himself as an Irishman. He was, accordingly, extremely fond of the color green.

This is despite the fact that in any directory of native Irish names O’Dell (as Dad grew up spelling it) is conspicuously absent. In point of fact, later investigation on my own part traced the development of “Odell” through Odill and Oadill to the — probably original — Woadhill. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Irish, and everything to do with the weed called woad.

Which produces blue dye, not green.

The name is also of English origin. (Bedfordshire, according to my source — which may be in error, but seems as good a bet as any other, and certainly as recently as 1832 there was an Odell Castle in that County.)

However, once “the Odell” trooped (literally) over to Ireland — trailing his retainers after him — back in the 16th century, and said retainers took his name and decided to stay, it stands to reason that their children were being duly recorded by semi-literate parish priests as O’Dells within a generation.

Be that as it may, Dad’s claim of nationality was not inaccurate. His ancestors had, after all, been intermarrying with the Irish for some 300 years, and while one may look askance at the “O’Dells”, no one has ever questioned the provenance of the O’Connors. The deciding factor on such matters for Dad, however, was not so much family tradition as the workings of chance which saw to his having been born upon the 17th of March.

St. Patrick’s Day.

This assured, if nothing else, that he was destined to involuntarily acquire an extensive collection of kelly green neckties. In fact, having been given a ready-made excuse to be known to be fond of green, he took the ball and ran with it. Occasionally in very odd directions.

I have upon occasions in this collection strongly implied that Dad was what could fairly be referred to as empty-headed. His head was, however, covered with an excellent crop of hair. It was quite thick, silky fine, and just a bit wavy, which one rarely had a chance to appreciate since he had started oiling and combing it straight back à la Valentino back when he and the century were in their 20s, and never thought to update the style. Dad kept this excellent head of hair all of his life; any receding which his hairline ever attempted having been abandoned before he was 20, leaving him with a high, wide, noble-looking brow which was, frankly, a misrepresentation.

Dad attributed his good tonsorial fortune to the practice of always wearing a hat. I tend to think it was simply a lucky gene pull (his younger brother was bald before he was 40), and I am unashamedly jealous. I managed to inherit Ma’s fine, but thin hair. (Which was about the only thing about either of us that was ever thin.)

Like many men who are fortunate enough to have excellent heads of hair, Dad was inordinately vain about it. So when at long last, (well into his 60s) its native light ash brown started to grey noticeably, he took to using a color restorer. This was a mistake.

If he had come right out and dyed it, it would have been a hassle and a half, but he would at least have got his natural color back. Instead, he used something like Grecian Formula which he combed in. As I just pointed out above, his natural color was ash brown. Any cosmetologist will tell you that ash tones can get very dicey when playing around with color. On his hair, the metallic salts in the color restorer developed a distinct olive cast.

“Dad,” I said, “That stuff turns your hair green.”

He didn’t believe me.

Or, perhaps, he considered that dark olive green hair was to be preferable to grey hair.

In any case, Dad went around in public with green hair for several years, until Ida (my stepmother) talked him into letting his hair go ahead and be grey. By the time he died it had faded to a soft, pearly color which was really very handsome. (The funeral parlor gave him a side part, which although not unattractive, was quite disconcerting to anyone who had ever known him.) Since he was only 82 at the time it never got the chance to go completely white.

(At least when my hair blossoms out into colors not seen in nature, it’s deliberate.)