Monday, May 13, 2013


I didn't find the stapled sheets of organizers anywhere.  Not in the binders or the file folders or the filing cabinet drawers or the cupboards.  Not even in the boxes still waiting to be sorted after I moved my home office upstairs.  I didn't find the organizers, but I found two anecdotes I had written up a few years ago and given up for lost.  Imagine my delight.

So, I thought I would share one with you, especially since it dovetails nicely with the theme of physical calamities developed in the last post.

The moment I saw the cracks spike up the glass pitcher in a zigzag worthy of a disintegrating cliff in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I suspected I would be in for the long haul.  A piercing CRACK!! announced that the pitcher would no longer hold the boiling water, and arcing columns of scalding water sprayed the kitchen counter, the table, the floor--and my thigh.  That's when my spirit froze in dreaded certainty.

The accident had its roots in the ordinary and the innocent, as many accidents do.  I was preparing an anniversary barbecue for my sister-in-law and her husband one beautiful Sunday.  Take out the meat, slice the vegetables, put the potatoes on the fire, wipe down the patio furniture, set the table, lay out the chairs.  I wanted everything to be perfect.

I have always been somewhat of a purist.  I like things to be done correctly.  This passion often manifests itself in the preparation of food.  When I can make dishes from scratch, I do.  What could be more natural, then, on this special occasion, than making homemade iced tea rather than scooping out the mix.  Not a problem; I had done this before.  Boil the water; put the tea bags in the pitcher; try to gulp down some lunch at the same time; make every minute count.  Just as the water began to boil--and I mean the instant it began to boil--I poured it into the pitcher, which picked that day to complain that it was never made to contain water that hot.

The thin cotton of my summer shorts was no protection against the lethal spray.  Coursing down my leg, the water swept with it sheets of peeling skin, leaving exposed a tender patch still numb from the shock.  Paralyzed with surprise, I weighed my options.  Stop the burning flesh! I told myself.  Setting down the kettle I still held in my right hand, I yelled to whoever was in earshot, "Get me some ice!" I dashed to the bathroom, and jumped into the tub.   As it filled with cold water, I splashed more on my seared thigh.  What a mess I was in!  When the ice arrived a few minutes later, I applied it to the afflicted area to further cool the skin and stop the burning.  What would I do now?  I had no idea.  I couldn't stay in the bathtub forever.  Could I bandage the wound myself?  Maybe not.  Emergency seemed like a logical option.

The medical staff was very kind and professional.  They dressed the wound carefully, and told me that I would have to come to the hospital every day for a dressing change.  They had to be kidding!  Every day!  Didn't they know I had things to do that didn't factor in a dressing change?  But they weren't, and they didn't.  I went to emergency faithfully, every morning.   The burn consumed my life.  I had difficulty walking.  I couldn't take a bath.  I was terrified that I would have an ugly scar on the front of my leg.

Unfortunately, many of my fears were realized.  The burn branded the summer.  Only a week later was I able to walk normally.  Only with a special plastic bandage was I able to shower or bathe.  Swimming was out of the question.  Only when I learned how to change the dressing myself was I able to forego the daily hospital visits.  I still have an ugly scar on my thigh.

I don't attempt to disguise the scar, or to hide it in the summer.  I wear it as a reminder that, preoccupied with our daily tasks, we often forget to be careful, to take a few extra minutes, to use proper equipment, whether it is a heat-proof pitcher, or a helmet, or a seatbelt.  That scar keeps me honest; it's a badge that ensures that I never forget.  It may be, after all, a sort of insurance against any future serious accidents of neglect.

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