I like to kid about past cases of calling in to work “with an eye problem” – which, of course, meant that I couldn’t see myself going to work that day – but the truth is that I was raised by people who did not believe in doctors.
Doctors? What do you want to see a doctor for?
Doctors were for when you couldn’t stop the bleeding. Otherwise? You’ll be fine! Nothing a little work won’t cure.
“Pearl! Your father’s trying to kill me!”
I remember that day, the day my parents put a wood-burning stove into the basement, the heavy cast iron pipes running from the stove out through the walls to the garage and then out and up the roof.
What do you mean, pay someone else to do it? When they have two arms and two legs apiece? Don’t be silly!
Of course it’s silly to pay someone to do the work that you yourself can do – until your mother yells for you, as mine did, claiming that ol’ Paul was trying to kill her.
He wasn’t really trying to kill her. She just couldn’t keep that pipe up in the air while he attached the whatzit to the doohickey.
I helped her to the kitchen, where she sat on the counter with her foot in the sink, the tap running cold as the blood swirled down the drain.
“Ooooh ,” she moaned. “Your father’s trying to kill me!” Mom regained her strength just long enough to yell out “Dammit all, Paul!” before lapsing into the moaning again, studiously avoiding the sight of her own blood.
My mother cannot abide two things: children with runny noses and her own blood.
Your blood? Oh, she was fine with that – might even make her laugh in that frightening yet adorable way she has when she is nervous – but her own blood makes her gag.
“We should probably take you to a doctor,” I said. I showed promise, even as a teenager, of knowing which end was up.
“That’s a lot of blood you’re losing there,” I said. “I’ll bet that could take some stitches.”
“Stitches, schmitches,” she said. Mom is nothing if not logical. “Ack. I’m fine,” she said dismissively. “Kevin can help with the rest of that lousy stove.”
He did. Kevin helped with the rest of that lousy stove and Dad went to the store that night and bought Mom a pint of mint-and-chocolate-chip ice cream, the kind of treat that passed in our house as an extravagance, an apology, and a declaration of love.
And she shared it.
And so it is with agitation that I tell you that both of my hands, aching from the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome I have both inherited and worked my way towards, have threatened to secede from the Union. Wrapped in ice, stabilized by Velcro-ed guards, shielded from manual labor, none of these things are interesting, amusing, or have any market value.
All of these things, as my Grandma would say, stick in my craw.
I'm being brave, I'm trying not to complain, and I am studiously avoiding the growing stack of dishes in my kitchen.
And while I know it’s no one’s fault, I’m kind of hoping that somewhere there will be a bowl of mint-and-chocolate-chip ice cream in it for me.
It’s simple; but then again, sometimes, so am I.