When I was seven I had surgery on my right arm for a bone marrow infection. The scar looked like the doctors were not as worried about the cut as they were with saving my arm. When I wondered what other people would think of that ugly gash, my dad draped his arm over me, smiled and said, “Tell ‘em you were playing pool down at the bar and got in knife fight.”
I also have a small circular scar on my chest. It looks like someone jabbed me with a lit cigar. I don’t recall ever being tortured. One doctor who looked at it said it might have come from some rare kind of spider.
I have scars on a hand that got jammed under a skateboard at a high rate of speed. I remember that one. It hurt. I was about 12 years old. After the wreck I ran to my house, yelling for my mother, convinced this one was pretty bad. She washed off the blood with a garden hose, took one look at my hand, and told me to “stop being a baby.”
And I have a scar, almost a small pit really, in my left shin from a staph infection I got while playing high school football. We’ll never know exactly where I got it, but I have my suspicions. My towel had been unknowingly borrowed by an enormous defensive tackle, whose legs carried more divots and craters than the lunar surface.
My daughter is also pretty accomplished when it comes to accumulating scars. I can still hear her feet pounding across the broad porch of that big old house, helping her mom and squealing with delight as she delivered a bag of groceries. This was a time when bringing something to her dad was met with enthusiasm, compared to the exaggerated roll of the eyes such a task elicits now. Then there was a thud and the squeals of delight escalated to outright screams. I rushed outside to find my daughter on her back, cans of tuna fish rolling around her. Blood was pouring from a gash right under her eye where she had clipped the edge of a glass table. The doc did a pretty good job on that one and you have to look to see the scar now. But a scar on her forehead, hidden just below her hairline, was not as easy for the doctor to sew up. She got that one when her cousin smacked her with a shovel.
After work I used to “rough-house” with my oldest son. That went all wrong when he punched his hand through a pane of glass. He was so determined they were not going to stitch him up that they had to put him in a strait jacket. Of course, since they were putting it on a kid they gave it a nice name, something like a “Papoose.” More than one medical professional expressed amazement as they watched my kid wiggle free of the “Papoose.” So, one of the doctors tried to make small talk and sew him up as three nurses held down my four year old son.
“Wayne, how did you hurt your hand?”
“Me and my dad was fighting,” Wayne told them. I started looking around to make sure they didn’t put me in the Papoose for physical abuse of my child, or his destruction of the English language.
And this wasn’t the worst one with that child, although there is no visible scar from the time he fell off a skateboard and broke his arm. I went the tough love route just like my mother. Sure it was swelling and yes it hurt, but ice and pain relievers would fix it. It didn’t. My wife still hasn’t let me live that one down.
And yet she rarely mentions the time we fixed a bloody forehead with Super Glue and duct-tape, probably because that one worked out just fine, save the crooked scar not too far removed from Harry Potter territory. It was one of the twins. A doctor was on hand at the time of the wounding. He assured us that a trip to the Emergency Room late on a Saturday night was not a good idea. The wife said not a word as we cleaned the wound and then patched him up. It looked like some kind of redneck horror movie, but it wasn’t bad work coming from an eye doctor who was drinking a healthy amount of red wine. This was the same kid who broke his leg while my parents were keeping him. I remember coming back from a weekend with the wife to pick up our four children and this one, at the time just recently able to walk upright, was on his hands and one leg, dragging the other one behind him.
“He just started doing that,” my dad said. “We figured he was tired.”
Or the leg could be broken.
The other twin has never broken a thing, and has only one scar that curves across his eyelid. While it is clearly visible, it is also the most undocumented injury we have. We simply don’t know where it came from, or when he got it.
In truth, life is full of scars. Most of ours aren’t that easy to find. They fade with time, until they grow faint like the memories they represent.