Bryan has had stitches twice in the past two months. Those dark blue or black threads tied up in little knots have reminded me of the stitches (and staples) I've experienced in the past. Being cut and stitched closed is horrible. I mean it is wonderful that the human body can heal itself and that if the edges of sliced skin are brought back together it can heal with less of a scar. But just thinking about having stitches, makes the back of my knees ache and causes the bad kind of chills down my spine.
The winter I was in fifth grade at Hinckley Elementary School, it was bitterly cold and nearly all the pipes in our house froze. We had a couple of episodes with broken pipes that winter in the new addition my Dad was putting on our house. Broken pipes are almost as terrible as stitches in skin. When the temperature drops to a certain level, leaking or spraying water immediately turns to ice so we were having to use a blowtorch to melt ice so we could mop up the water. My poor parents were buying heat tape and wrapping every pipe in the house, but for a good month the only running water in the house was in the tub of one bathroom. We hauled buckets of water to the kitchen to cook and clean with. We had to haul water to the laundry room to wash clothes. We had to haul water from the tub in the far bathroom outside to water the animals. It was truly a horrendous time. At this point, my father was working feverishly to finish the addition so we could heat that part of the house. He installed the windows at almost the same time the HVAC guys were there installing the new furnace. Why do I remember this all so well? Because on an especially frigid Saturday morning I was hauling a five-gallon bucket of water. I weighed about 75 pounds and had sticks for arms, so I would use momentum to swing the bucket forward a few feet, take a step and do it again. This was how I moved the bucket through the house to the back door. Leaning against the wall by that door was a window that had just been broken during the rush to finish the addition. Something had fallen through the glass leaving a gaping hole with giant shards surrounding it. As my luck and the accident-proneness in me would have it, I lost my balance and fell right into that broken window. Of all the places inside and outside the house I could have tumbled while toting that bucket of water, it had to be right into a broken window. I must have shot out my left arm to catch myself and it went right through the hole. I vividly remember that giant chunk of flesh hanging open and the amount of blood that immediately washed the area. What I don't remember is how I alerted my Mom to my plight and how freaked out she must have been. It seems like she was extremely calm. She had the presence of mind to ask one of the HVAC guys if my artery was cut. Maybe she was trying to determine if it would be worth the six-mile drive into Delta to find a doctor.
We did make the journey, with me in the back seat soaking blood into every towel my mother owned. Dr. Lyman began by cleaning the wound by irrigating it with something that stung like the dickens. Then he draped it and started sticking needles all around it to numb the area. He determined that there were five severed vessels and a few damaged nerves as well. He spent a couple of hours stitching inside before making 15 stitches on the outside to close the gash. Then he did the cruelest thing of all, he gave me a Tetanus shot in my right arm.
When we got back home late that afternoon, my Dad had disposed of the window and had done his best to clean up the blood. I was grateful for that. He helped me prop the injured arm on a pillow to sleep that night and he sat and talked with me. I didn't realize it then, but he felt so much guilt about my injury. I knew very well that I had only my own clumsiness to blame and didn't even consider being upset with him about the broken window. It wasn't until I became a parent that I finally understood what he was going through that night.
For the next several days I was in agony, not from the cut wrist, but from that Tetanus shot. I was using my injured left hand to do things while I allowed my right arm to hang uselessly at my side because it hurt from my shoulder to my hand and was too painful to move.
For years after that incident, you could tell when I was cold because my scar would turn the most vivid shade of purple. In the 40 years since that happened I wish I had kept track of the number of people who have asked me, upon seeing my scared wrist, if I had tried to commit suicide. If I did, it was a completely subconscious attempt.