A Story To Tell
Kathryn Harrison said, — 'Scars are stories, history written on the body'. As a born Murphy, I've got an entire PhD research paper written all over my body. This week's PCT's-Positive CJ Thoughts, are all about those small raised lines left behind from the wound. It's those lines and raised areas that remind me that my skin is both fragile and tough.
They remind me that, underneath the layer of epidermis, lie muscles, tendons, and bones. The blood those wounds shed, remind me that arteries and veins transport oxygen rich blood to feed my brain and body. Nerves carry the message of the sharp sting of pain, but they also let me to feel the warm touch of another. My scars tell the stories of the trees I've climbed and fallen out of, along with the memories of bravery or insanity. Some may see those same scars as mistakes I've made. I choose to see them as a life lived and survived.
We all have scars. Some are on the outside, visible for all the world. Sometimes the more painful ones, are in a place no one will ever see, deep within the heart and psyche.
On my forehead, I have a deep round scar with a dark freckle/mole in it.
I got that scar when I did exactly what my Mom told me not to. She said, 'don't scratch' and I did the opposite. I had the chicken pox when I was probably nine years old. Yup, I scratched and so I have a chicken pox scar on the left side of my forehead and sadly, one between my eyes. I was almost grateful when my frown lines showed up because they hid that one. Moral to that story, sometimes, ya ought to listen to MOMMA…other times, not so much.
My mom worried for years about my promising career as a hand model…(insert sarcasm and rolling of the eyes here). Given that I broke almost every finger on both hands, at one point or another playing one sport or another, I was never going to star in a Palmolive dish soap commercial. Not all my fingers point the direction they were intended. The tip of my left index finger is trying to turn itself 45 degrees after a fastball snapped into my baseball glove.
It might also have something to do with the dislocation that happened while I was splitting wood years later. My Doc told me from now on, jerk it back in place while the shock was still blocking the pain. That same poor finger has a two-inch scar where I was using the power washer to clean off a floor mat and the spray nozzle went a little off aim.
It hurt like hell! That poor finger. So much for that TV commercial deal.
On the top of my left wrist, there's another two inch scar from a jagged piece of metal when my gear and my extrication glove separated company as I tried to cut a dying man out of a car.
It healed up, he didn't make it. Remember those inside scars I talked about?
Ever tried to bathe a cat, one that REALLY didn't want to be bathed? Well, when you turn over my left arm, there are two scars from a very ANGRY cat that had crawled under a greasy axle.
A SNOW-WHITE, long-haired cat. Sigh. Yittle definitely left his mark while I removed the reverse skunk mark off of him. Lessons learned for sure.
When I was five or six, I had this white wrought iron rocking chair. The top broke off and left a sharp point. I walked by it and it tore a gash on my left arm at the elbow. I was so afraid of stitches, that I hid in the little building the rocker sat in. I covered it up with my right hand and tried to sneak into the house to find a Scooby Band-Aid to cover it before mom saw it. Mothers have eyes in the back of their head, you know. I think her...'my child is hurt sensors' went off. There was blood, and a lot of it. I cried and cajoled her into NOT going to the hospital for something that truly needed stitches. I had negotiation skills even back then. She regretted that scar and blamed herself. On a child's arm, it was monstrous and I got a lot of questions about it. Most of the time I forgot about it until someone asks about the raised pink scar with the faint line above it on the elbow area.
I healed up but every time my mom sees it she tells me she should have taken me in. She regrets it to this day. I on the other hand, only remember the story.
All of that is on ONE arm.
The other arm bears a burn mark, not job related, which is why I now wear long gloves to load the fireplace. Memories of nights in front of the fire in my new home with my wife.
My right ring finger carries a brand in the shape of the Claddagh ring I wear.
The ring touched the positive battery terminal and the metal frame on the tractor years ago. THAT hurt like hell and I don't recommend it.
On my abdomen, I have a few small half inch scars on my abdomen where they took out my gallbladder.
A small surgical complication caused bile to leak into my abdomen…which gave me peritonitis, one of the most painful things I've ever had. I was extremely sick and had been transported to the emergency room in another city where we were visiting a 911 center to look at equipment. Later, I was transferred by ambulance, to a hospital closer to home where the surgery to fix the complication would take place. When they did that, they shot dye into my pancreas and gave me…pancreatitis. I finally looked at my surgeon and told him to stop breaking me to fix me. It was also one of the first times I ever saw my wife cry. She was so worried about how sick I was.
I honestly thought I was dying before that first ambulance ride I hadn't even asked her to marry me yet. During a scan to determine that issue, we found a large cyst on one of my overlies. Yeah, that was another surgery later. She later teased me that she was going to turn me in for a new model.
In the first few months we lived together she survived three surgeries with me. Trust me, I am not a good patient and I am very cranky when I come up from anesthesia.
I haven't even gotten to the crater on my back from kicking in the door of a structure fire on my job.
Big, bad firefighter with a really small boot. I busted two disks in my back with that made- for- TV- bonehead move. It nearly cost me my job as I spent months enduring physical therapy, spinal shots, and finally surgery. I cried as the doctor told me it was the only way I had a chance to make it back to work. I survived surgery and was well on my way. Walking as much as possible, as they'd advised, I tried to strengthen my back...until the day I woke up with a skull splitting headache and a transparent halo on my sheets. My incision was leaking cerebral spinal fluid. A pretty dangerous complication. So dangerous that when I made it to my surgeon's office, they wouldn't even let me walk from one place to another. Being a Murphy sucks when it comes to surgery because in my case, anything that can go wrong, will and did. They tried to get the dura to seal on its own by making me lay flat for twenty four hours. Not kidding, no eating, no drinking and no going to the bathroom unless I was flat on my back. I'll let that simmer for a while. Of course, that didn't work, so back into surgery we went where they fixed it and somehow managed to not break it this time.
It took nearly a year for me to walk back into the fire department, but I did it. I have a different job than I did back then, but I'm still wearing a Maltese cross on my left sleeve and an American flag on my right, a shiny gold badge sits over my heart.
I won't even talk about my legs. I won't be starring in a Lady Bic commercial either. There are faded burn marks on my right calf from the muffler of a mini bike and more skive marks than I can count in one place or another. There are a few scars on my psyche too. Children I wasn't able to make a difference for, two of which died in my arms and two that died in a house fire not in my jurisdiction.
Those last two caused me to start Operation "Not One More", my smoke alarm program.
I'm doing all I can to heal that wound so that the pain caused by the scar in my mind, and in my heart, will dull over time. Those wounds scar over, but remain as raised areas that never really heal.
There is a childhood full of memories that have left a bucket load of their own scars. As a five or six year old, I watched my mom be dragged across the porch by her hair as she screamed for me to lock myself in the car to protect me from my father. The feeling of his powerful backhand to my face and the sting it left behind, all scars that tell the story of who I am today.
Those incidents of domestic violence left a bucket load of their own scars. As a five or six year old, I watched my mom be dragged across the porch by her hair as she screamed for me to lock myself in the car to protect me from my father. The feeling of his powerful backhand to my face and the sting it left behind, all scars that tell the story of who I am today. No pictures exist of those scars except the ones that flash through the memories of each argument, shout and punch.
Our story can be told by the scars we see and by the ones we can't. Those scars are part of our unique history and also what binds us to those who have suffered like trauma.
What do we do with these scars? In my debut novel, 'frame by frame', those scars are a big part of the story.
The story reaches deep into Val with her physical and emotional scars left by war and into Laurel with those left by surgery to remove cancer. In my next one, Jordan has scars that can't be seen on the outside and so does Noeul. Both have suffered losses in love, one by betrayal and one by death.
As an author, we let our pain and suffering, our pleasure and joy, be a pallet for us to draw from. We frequently give pieces and parts of our own history and that of those around us to the characters we create. We draw from the inkwell of our own lives as we put words to paper or screen. Mixed with the black ink, there are tinges of red, the blood shed from cuts seen and unseen.
When you look around, the person sitting next to you may be able to put a very brave face on in the wake of pain. We might see it, and we might not. The scars we bear do not have to be a brand of shame but can be a sign of survival. When my MaMaw had her first breast cancer surgery, those scars bore witness to her fight.
They bore testament to what she lost in order to gain another chance at tomorrow, a testament that I took deeply to heart and relished every day I had with her. It stood as a witness to me to do regular exams and get my mammograms.
Scars…the history of tragedy and triumph. Your scars tell your personal story and serve as a witness to your survival, if just for one more day.
The Bucket List is a story of survival and the triumph that is possible after loss. I hope to be able to show the cover soon. The story is currently with Lee at Desert Palm Press as she works through final edits before we go to print. Soon, so very soon.
Remember that your scars tell the story written on your skin and in the places only you can see.
To read Val and Laurel's story for yourself, pick up your copy of the Goldie Award winner, 'frame by frame' at your favorite online retailer.