Ken Hazelwood, 76, made a pact with his grandson when the world shut down two years ago.
It was at a family gathering back then — from a distance, of course — where his grandson Matthew Hazelwood told him he’d committed to a certain plan.
“I’m not getting my hair cut until COVID is over,” the then Centennial High School sophomore said.
Ken, who had never grown out his hair past his ears, realized he had nothing to lose.
“I’ll join you,” he said, ultimately embarking on a journey of hair growth he never expected.
It was the first time Ken and his grandson Matthew decided to do something so big and for the long-haul together.
Today, both still haven’t gotten a haircut since before the pandemic.
To Matthew, the ongoing experience is “pretty neat.”
Both grandpa and grandson remember the days on which their lives changed drastically in 2020.
Ken, who lives in Fairview, was scheduled to go to dinner with his wife on March 13 and ultimately elected not to go due to continuous news of the quick spread.
Matthew, now 17 and a high school graduate, was on a school orchestra trip in Orlando when he received Twitter notifications of the first confirmed COVID-19 case back home in Franklin. Minutes later he received a text from a friend saying school was officially canceled.
Both went into a strict quarantine and mask-wearing routine throughout the pandemic, due to age and to protect immunocompromised family members. And top of the list of places they couldn’t visit due to both closures and safety were barber shops and salons.
So, in the meantime, they’d grow their hair, a new endeavor for both of them.
The longest Matthew had ever grown his hair was to the middle of his neck.
“It was like, I might as well,” Matthew said. “It was something I could do…. It wouldn’t hurt anybody, and it was just fun to do.”
Today, the Hazelwoods have grown their hair out down their backs, and the pact to keep growing their hair until the end of the pandemic remains. While they might trim it, they likely won’t go for a big chop.
“Not a single person has said, ‘Cut that mess off,” Ken said.
On one recent visit to his dermatologist, he told the doctor he’d considered finally going back to his typical hair with the world seemingly settling into a new normal. The hair was starting to feel bothersome as it began to fall in his eyes and into his mouth, and often got caught in the back of chairs when he sat.
“She said, ‘No, don’t do it!'” Ken recounted. “‘A lot of people never took (COVID-19) seriously, but here’s somebody who did and here’s the proof.'”
So, the duo’s hair remains long. Matthew is leaving for college in the fall at Tennessee Tech and admits he might go for a quick trim. And so will Ken.
But, their newfound length will remain for the time being as a memory of when the pandemic changed their lives and they, as grandfather and grandson, decided to do something together for the first time.
“We both stuck with it, and I don’t regret making that pact,” Ken said.
Anika Exum is a reporter covering Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @aniexum or by phone/text at 615-347-7313.