There always comes a time when you’re at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service, and the conversation turns to childhood injuries. I don’t know how it happens, but it does. I’ll say to someone, “Hey, have you seen the new gift shop on 6th Street?” and the person next to me will say “Hey, I fell down on the sidewalk when I was six and sliced my knee open … see this scar?” Then someone else will add, “Hey, see THIS scar?” and they’ll show you where they had six stitches on their arm from getting a little too close to a rusty nail somewhere. It’s like the “You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine Scar Game.”
It is kind of fun, comparing scars. Except seeing other people’s scars makes me nervous. In fact, it makes me hurt. But talking about my own scars doesn’t bother me at all. Have I ever told you about the time my older sister, Tracy, and I were playing “Neighbor” one stormy night when I was four? Dad was at work on the graveyard shift, Mom was probably making Hot Dog Surprise in the kitchen and baby Coleen was fast asleep in her crib. So Tracy and I were playing “Neighbor” which is, one of us goes in the bedroom closet to play the neighbor, while the other plays the role of the other neighbor who will knock on the closet door to ask for a cup of sugar. It’s pretty exciting. Well, Tracy had me go in the closet so she could knock on the door, then I was supposed to open it all surprised, and she’d say “Hi Neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?” Well, that was the plan. Instead, as she closed me in the closet, I brilliantly stuck my finger in the door jam, and WHAM!! She heard my blood-curdling scream, whipped open the door and instead of a cup of sugar, she got a cup of blood–dripping down what used to be my finger. Only now my finger was in two pieces—the tip hanging on by a thread.
That’s probably my earliest memory–seems like your earliest memory is always something traumatic. Like getting lost, or chased by a dog, or getting your finger sliced in half in the door jam while playing “Neighbor.” Well, Mom wrapped my finger in a wet cloth and ran next door to grab the actual “Neighbor” to rush us to the hospital. See Dad had our fancy ’63 Grand Prix because he was at work. Most families didn’t have two cars back in the late ‘60s. Well, maybe yours did if you were fancy, but we didn’t have two cars until about 1970 when Dad got a cool light blue ’55 Ford truck. Anyway, our neighbor was the Pastor of the Church of Christ which was across the street from our house. His wife stayed with Tracy and Coleen while my Mom, the Pastor and me and my severed finger sprinted in his four-door sedan to the hospital.
Apparently poor Tracy thought she’d killed me—thought I’d die right there at the hospital emergency room. I remember that emergency room. Smelled like rubbing alcohol. There were old people in the beds next to me. Dad showed up and replaced Mom at my side. See, the emergency room doctor actually asked me (four years old) which parent I wanted to stay with me while they sewed up my finger. I said both. He said only one can stay. I thought about this real hard and decided my poor Mom shouldn’t have to witness the carnage of sewing my finger back on, so I excused her. And you can imagine how she felt. If I saw that doctor today, I’d kick him straight in the ass. And my poor Dad. How did he survive that emergency room–we weren’t even allowed to talk about blood at the dinner table. Well, Dad kept me focused … every time my eyes wandered over to the insensitive doctor sewing my finger, Dad told me to look at him instead. Somehow I survived and made it home where Tracy covered me with hugs and kisses; relieved she wasn’t going to kid jail for killing me. I was happy because I had a fancy new syringe to show off. It was something the nurses gave me. I could fill it with water like a mini water gun. Good times.
Except for getting the stitches out. I had to go in a dimly lit room with a young intern who was going to cut those stitches off. I remember him sitting me up on the table and telling me he was “tying me to the stake.” Then he started prancing around in some weird Cowboys and Indians dance. Even at four I remember thinking, “What the bleep is this dumb-ass doing?” That hospital really should’ve done more background checks back then, me thinks.
So yeah, I have a one-inch diagonal scar on my finger to remember that night. I’ll show it to you if we’re ever together at a party, or a work meeting, or a memorial service.