07 January 2008

Scars

Scars tell the stories of our lives. What is present, what is gone.

The son and I saw his reconstructed knee for the first time on Friday.

Through all the little surgeries I had through the fall and winter, my doctors would say, "don't worry! That's not blood you feel dripping!" or "Are you ok?"

I would shrug and tell them not be concerned; I'm not squeamish about what happens to me. I only worried once, post-c-section, when I could not stop laughing, wondering if this would lead to self-evisceration. It didn't.

I tend to remain clearheaded in the face of blood and destruction. The spouse and his father were repairing a gate when the saw slipped. My father-in-law came into my kitchen, dripping blood everywhere, and I washed him up, bandaged the gash and packed them off to the ER so he could be stitched back together.

Seeing the evidence of surgery or accident on my children is rather different, however.

I couldn't watch as the doctor took off the son's bandages. But the cinematic horrors my imagination was providing turned out to be far worse than reality. His knee was a little swollen, still yellow from the Betadine, but the incisions were clean, and patched up. He will have a very impressive scar along the inner side of his left knee.

He fussed about that last night after I hauled him out of the shower.

"It'll fade over time," I told him. And I took him on a brief tour of some of my more unsightly scars: the purplish one on my back that is bumpy and ridged where an incision "unzipped" last fall, the remnants down my left knee of a really nasty bike accident when I was 10 and its near twin on my right knee from the time three years ago when I tripped over uneven pavement on my morning run. Each with a story of its own. And see, I told him, showing him my hands, you can't even see all the burn scars anymore, dozens of burns mirroring dozens of pizzas being pulled out of a very hot narrow oven when I worked in an Italian restaurant in high school.

In college, I wrote a paper on Pablo Neruda's love poem, "Cuerpo de Mujer."

Body of a woman...
You look like a world


When you're 19, this sounds fine and romantic, but as I've watched my own landscape change over time, it's taken on other meaning. We become accustomed to the landmarks on our own bodies: a familiar mole, a hole in the gum that once housed an impacted wisdom tooth, the changes wrought on muscle and skin by pregnancy. The daughter and I were looking at wedding pictures recently and I recognized a mole under the net of my bodice, a mole that is now a flat white scar under my clavicle. Not so very different from the boulders that come crashing down a hillside in the rain, leaving a naked, muddy gash in their wake. We miss the landscape with which we are familiar, but over time, those scars heal too, as weeds and trees grow back in the gap, though the evidence that something else once inhabited that place, that something has changed, remains.

Go listen to some good music: "Scars" from the album Presto by Rush.

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