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.


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