Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birthdays, Basketballs and Bandages

I'm 52 years old, so I've had a lot of birthdays...and over the course of those years, I've received a lot of gifts. I can recall many gifts that I've received, but I have difficulty associating most them with a specific occasion or a specific year. I don't know if I was given my .22 rifle as a birthday gift...or not. Or my first bicycle. But I do remember one specific gift, and how old I was when I received it.

My birthday always fell during spring vacation from school, so it was simply celebrated on the farm with family. Spring break was usually filled with repairing fences broken from the heavy snow or playing out in the woods. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were simply laying in the warm spring sunshine in the neighbor's field filled with thick, dry grass during that week away from school. But on this birthday in 1968, when I turned twelve years old, I spent it up on the mountain with my two brothers.

The mountain ridge that ran behind our farm was a favorite haunting ground for all of us as kids. We would spend countless hours exploring and pretending. On this warm, spring day, we were up on the third cliff where we would usually end up finding ourselves. At the base of the cliff was a field of large boulders, the result of an ancient rock-slide. We must have been playing cowboys and indians...and I was an indian, because I was trying to make myself a tomahawk out of a stick and a sharpened rock. I had my baling twine with me that I'd brought from the barn down below on the farm. I also had a real hatchet to cut the handle for the tomahawk.

I can still almost see it happen in slow motion, even these 40 years later. I was holding the stick...actually a broken branch from a nearby tree. I was holding the stick upright, the base resting on one of the large rocks and I was using the hatchet to trim away the small branches.
I had been in the Boy Scouts, so I knew the proper rules for using an axe/hatchet.

Always cut away from your body!

For some reason, on that warm April morning, that rule slipped from my mind. As I was cutting away the last of the branches, the blade of the hatchet hit a knot on the side of the stick and bounced down and away from the stick. If I would have remembered that rule, my hand would have been clear of the path of the hatchet head. But instead, it was directly in the path of the blade as it bounced off the stick.

The sharp steel of the blade hit my left hand and immediately blood was running down my hand onto the rocks below. I felt no pain, but the sight of all of the blood caused me to cry out. Both Frank and Geoff were nearby and ran across the rocks quickly to where I was standing. My hand was completely covered with blood by now, so it was difficult to know how serious the accident was.

Frank yelled to Geoff to go down the mountain and tell mom and dad what had happened. Nimble and agile, Geoff ran down ahead of us. Frank grabbed me by the wrist, causing me more pain than the hatchet had and started to run down the mountain, half dragging me as I struggled to keep up.

I wasn't in the barn when Geoff reached the farm, but I heard the story. Dad was in the milking parlor, cleaning up. Breathless, Geoff ran through the door, yelling "Daddy! Daddy! Mark cut his thumb off!"

By the time we got down the mountain, dad was coming out of the barn to meet us. By now, Frank's hand was splattered red with my blood as well as my own. The initial shock of the cut was wearing off and my hand was beginning to throb with pain. When dad approached, he took me into the barn to one of the big stainless steel sinks and placed my hand under the warm water as it ran from the faucet. The sting of the water as it hit the wound became almost unbearable and I found myself sobbing from the pain.

As the blood was slowly washed away, the injury became visible. The blade of the hatchet had peeled back a "V" of skin at the base of my index finger about an inch on each side. The tendons were visible, but mercifully were spared from any damage. In the same way, the blade had missed all of the bones and nerves in my hand and miraculously, had only caused the cut to the skin.

After cleaning the wound, dad wrapped my hand in a towel and we went to the house. He warned us not to tell mom how serious it was. A trip to the emergency room followed which resulted in five stitches to reattach the loose flap of skin that had been peeled back from my hand. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn't gifted in the art of suturing and the scar is still large and visible today. Even the needle holes are visible, making me wonder he used a needle or a nail to sew the hand back up.

The remainder of my twelfth birthday is mostly a blur. I don't remember the trip home or what we had for birthday dinner. I'm not sure if mom made my favorite cake...Devil's Food chocolate...or not. And, I don't remember opening any of my gifts. But I do remember what the gift was from mom and dad. It was a basketball!

I don't remember asking for a basketball. I think the only time I'd ever really tried to play was at a weekend basketball clinic at the school. I had been terrible and didn't really have much interest in embarassing myself like that again. We had a gravel driveway so we didn't really have a place to play, but that was the gift. Dad placed the basketball hoop on the front of the garage, and I can remember watching Frank and Geoff play basketball with my gift. Eventually, my hand healed and I joined in the games. We played with that ball for many years, eventually moving the basketball hoop to the attic of the barn where we had a wooden floor.

I'm not sure if I remember the gift of the basketball because of the injury or for some other reason. But, it's a birthday I remember...and I will carry a reminder of in on my left hand for the rest of my life.


Deb Shucka said...

Is it rude to laugh when you got so hurt? You nailed our brothers perfectly, and I'm still laughing.

I've been aware of the scar, but never knew the story before now. It's a great one.

Frank and Geoff playing with your birthday present before you could - that's a story by itself.

It's interesting that Dad didn't want Mom to know. I wouldn't have thought she would have freaked about anything. But, then you were her favorite. :)

Anonymous said...

Good morning

We do not agree with this year Brit awards decision.

Please visit our little survey

Lady Gaga can not be better than ?????

Poll supported by BRIT awards 2010 sponsor femmestyle
[url=]fettabsaugung[/url] - tickets left standing!! This Competition is now closed