Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scar Tissue 
In the morning I go with my sister to the hospital while she has surgery. She's been preparing for it for a while. There is a cyst that needs to be removed and it's removal should help her to feel better and assure her better health for the time being. She's been through similar surgery before and this is supposed to be less invasive but with all the preparation that goes into it one can't help but worry a little bit about the procedure, the doctor's day, the recovery. They'll know more after the process is started but they want to keep things as noninvasive as possible. Anything like this challenges a person mentally and spiritually as well as physically.
Years ago I was injured potentially pretty badly and had to be taken to the hospital. It's an incident I would like to have forgotten I am reminded of it every time I look down and see the four inch jagged scar that crosses the inside of my right wrist. Typically it comes to me out of the blue. I do something like throw a football or answer a  phone and I glimpse the line that has grown to mix with the natural wrinkling of my skin there. If I didn't already know it was there I might not even notice it and I could forget. 
In college I had pretty much forgotten about it, or at least when I was conscious of it I was able to keep it hidden and never had to explain it to anyone. There was a large group of us that had gotten to know each other quite well in the dormitory. A mix of cultures, male, female, black, white, Asian, English, believers, non-believers. We all got along very well and there was a core group of us that looked forward to gathering together as often as possible, usually during meals, to talk, laugh, share ideas, relate to each other and learn from each other. 
One evening while we were finishing supper and engrossed in conversation, laughing, joking, and sharing I had gotten comfortable enough to not be self conscious and had let my guard down. I had my chin resting in the palm of my right hand which meant my arm was propped up on the table, scarred wrist out and exposed. No one noticed until Carol who was sitting across from me looked and quietly said, "Oh my God, Joe.". It was not loud enough for anyone else to hear or take notice and then she did something no one had ever done, nor would I probably have ever let anyone do until Carol. She carefully and discreetly reached across the table and very gently ran the tips of her fingers along the scar following it from end to end. For a moment I was confused until I realized what she was doing and I understood what she thought. I would have to explain to her how this scar came about so she would not misunderstand. Her sense of care and concern was so genuine and warm and something that I hadn't experienced before that I wasn't embarrassed or self conscious with her. I quietly let her know it wasn't what she was thinking and that it was the result of an accident, but I knew that didn't really explain things.
I don't remember if I told her later that the incident happened when I was in the ninth grade. It was a Saturday morning and my brother and my dad were fighting heatedly. This wasn't out of the ordinary for them. They didn't really seem to get along very well, but what teenage boy gets along well with his father? I of course was a middle child and the voice of the mediator trying to get them to stop arguing. They were standing in the kitchen and my brother who was 16 shoved my dad very hard into the wall. My dad fell back, hit his head quite hard, rolled his eyes and slumped to the floor. I remember trying to get him to respond but he said nothing, he just sat there slumped against the wall, eyes closed not responding to my efforts. I panicked or freaked out and walked into the living room mumbling something and crying at the same time. I have no idea what I was saying but I was thinking that my brother had just maybe killed my father. A large oak chair was in front of me and I kicked it with all the strength I had. It rose into the air higher than my head before crashing back to the floor. I then proceeded to punch my fist through the windows in the front door. There were six and I punched out each of them, one at a time. When I finished my oldest brother had entered the room. His question was, "Joe, what did you do?". I looked down and saw the blood, the open gash across my wrist, and heard my voice say in a quiet controlled panic, "I think I hurt myself.". 

My oldest brother called for my dad who came out of the kitchen fine. He got a towel and wrapped it tightly around my arm over the gash. That's also when he told me he was faking injury in the kitchen to try and teach my arguing brother a lesson. And he also asked why I punched the windows. I don't know why I did that, I wasn't thinking obviously, but I was also very frightened. Before we left the house with my arm wrapped up we had made up some story about how I had slipped in a puddle of water from the snow melting and my hand had gone through the window of the door. That's what I was to tell the doctor because if I didn't they might take me away. It was pretty rehearsed by the time we got there but I'm still certain the doctor questioned the puddle of water story. He stitched me up and sent me home. I didn't get out of any schoolwork because though I throw a punch with my right hand, I write with my left. I can't say anything good came out of that whole experience at the time. 

It wasn't until later in college that something good did finally come of that event. I don't think I ever did thank Carol for caring, for being so sensitive, for just taking time to notice and be concerned. That's the part of this that I carry with me today. I try to let go of the anger and frustration that I felt toward my brother and father and wrap myself in the moment someone finally cared about what could have happened that day and expressed that to me through gentle kindness.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My tooth extraction went fine though up until yesterday I was still pulling little shards from my gums. They weren't painful, just annoying. It's healed up quite nicely overall. I miss the tooth and my voice sounds empty or hollow to me now and I can't explain why but overall I feel much better without it. My mind refers to me as toothless redneck. I know that isn't the case. I am not toothless. My wisdom teeth are still intact and doing well so in reality I have three more teeth in my head than most adults I  know who have had their wisdom teeth removed.

For some reason I was thinking about a refrigerator that I owned years ago when I lived in Dowling, MI. My home was a small unfurnished cabin on the campus of the outdoor education center where I worked. It was a communal kind of life with shared showers and restrooms centrally located. There were some difficulties with this but overall I have to say that the people I knew there have probably had as much or more influence in who I am today than most anyone in high school (Patty, Kirk, and Sandy excepted) and most of the people in college. It was a time of growth, new things, new experiences, dating really for the first time in my live (at 25, yes at 25), having to work with the people that I shared living quarters with. Downsides: eventually everyone knows your business and there is no privacy and people really get on each others nerves. Plus it is a lot of hard work to co-exist peacefully. It doesn't always happen and when one person doesn't make that a priority it can be hellish. Upsides: you get to know some very good people very well, you learn who your friends are, you learn to work through differences and swallow your pride and admit when you're wrong. Carpooling is also a plus, though I've mentioned before that I abused that privilege for a year or two before finally getting a vehicle of my own. I think everyone was happy when I finally did get wheels, including me.

I no longer  have the refrigerator. It was a large dorm size fridge that I bought from Lynn Sagar when she moved on. I also was able to live in the cabin that she used before she moved. I don't know what happened to Lynn and am trying to find out. The refrigerator wound up going to a single mom who had left her husband because he was beating her and she was concerned he would start with their kids soon. So she took the kids and left, found a place but had no place to store food that needed refrigeration. I had moved and no longer used the refrigerator and found out through my sister this woman was in danger of losing  her kids because social services had some in and decided she needed to have one for her kids or they would find someplace else for her kids to live. She had an infant on formula so she really did need one but had no money for it. I game my refrigerator away when asked if she could use it to keep her kids. I was asking my sister about it today and that's when I found out all the details behind it. I didn't know before and I was thinking it might be nice to have it back. When she told me the whole story behind it I felt kind of stupid but am glad that I know now what actually happened to it and hope that it made a difference.

It feels lately that I'm so concerned about my own survival that I forget there are others around who really do need more and I honestly could do with a whole lot less. A WHOLE lot. I don't know when my focus changed but I think it was gradual and am grateful that I'm becoming aware of it once again. I want to be willing to lose everything and free myself from myself.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tomorrow I have a dental appointment to have a tooth removed. It's not something my dentist likes to do but it's gotten to the point where there really is no other option. Oddly, I'm okay with this. No, I do not want to lose a tooth, but I do get to keep my molar, it's in the back of my mouth, and it's been giving me trouble for years. If it could be saved that would be the preferred thing to do. What bothers me is the reason WHY I'm okay with this.

As I think about the appointment tomorrow I feel a sense of calm. I know my dentist and his assistant are good people who are going to take care of me while I am there. There's something wrong with feeling the only sense of relief and care that I feel comes from having to have a tooth pulled. I felt similar when I had a stress test a short time back. I felt cared for in the doctor's office and I don't feel that at home or at work or in any social settings these days. I would go to a counselor about it but THAT feels to comfortable too. I would love to have a counselor to listen to me again, support me, ask me questions, not tell me what to so, not beat up on me, not call me all sorts of obscene names like happens at work...what a sense of relief that would be. But is it a proper use of the service provided.

It's pretty extreme if I am actually somehow allowing my teeth to get to the point where they need immediate care and I'm doing that to get some sense of being cared for. It's pretty sick actually, if that's what I've done.

In the past I've rarely gone to the doctor or dentist. An annual physical was something I hadn't done until I turned 40. Even at that I skipped last years until this year. And as for the dentist I haven't been there for seven years. It was a good seven or more before that time that I had been and then it was an emergency. So I have to wonder just what the heck am I doing to myself?

I also have to understand that there has never been flouride in our water supply at home. We also used baking soda often to brush instead of toothpaste. Thinking back on it, I honestly believe that may have been to save money. Baking soda was far less expensive than toothpaste with flouride. We never went to the doctor when we were young. We didn't demand medications like people do today.

I really don't think I'm using my medical professionals to fill the need for social care that I feel is lacking in my life but I will admit, when most are stressed out with these situations, I look forward to them in part because I am not expected to perform, I am not going to be abused, nor will I feel like I'm not appreciated. When I am there I am treated like a person with respect and that gives me some comfort.

So...maybe I am using them to fill a need that I don't normally get.