Your granddaughter, Molly, can recite most of the characters’ lines from the movie STEEL MAGNOLIAS. But one line everyone seems to think comes from the movie is actually paraphrased from Nietzsche: “…whatever does not kill him makes him stronger.”
Last week Jim and I clapped and cheered at one of Gannon’s little league baseball games. We were so excited when your great-grandson slid into home plate, but it wasn’t until later that we saw the damage it had done to his elbow. Gannon has just finished second grade, and this is another way he’s growing up: his boo-boos no longer require bandaids, and he rolls his eyes if I call them boo-boos…which means kissing injuries to make them better is out of the question!
You’ve had various painful injuries and surgeries, Mom, but two I’ll share now. You told me the story about the first one from your childhood, and the damage is still obvious on your foot. You and your brother Ira were playing out in the farm yard (see picture below). You were about three, and the two of you were pumping water when the pump handle came off. It hit your foot, slicing the toenail from the middle toe of your foot. Grandma cleaned and treated the wound and though it healed, the nail never grew back. Even now, more than ninety years later, you still have a little round hard nub where the toenail should be.
The second story you didn’t tell me. I was there and remember it clearly. A strange hard knot had formed on your left wrist. You used hot and cold compresses, and though the bump didn’t actually hurt, Dad convinced you to go to our family doctor. I don’t know why you took me along–I was only ten, so it wasn’t to help you drive if you needed me–but I remember everything that happened in Dr. Basham’s office. He stretched your arm and hand out on the examination table and studied the big bump. He said it was a cyst, probably a ganglia, and he turned to take a big medical book off his shelf. I thought, “Oh-oh, this is serious and he’s looking it up to see what to do.” But even as I was wondering if you’d have to go to the hospital, the doctor held your arm in place with one hand, and with the other he brought the big medical book crashing down on the cyst, smashing it flat.
We both were startled, but you gulped, took a deep breath, and then you laughed. “I’m glad that’s over. If it happens again, I’ll know what to do,” you said, and Dr. Basham laughed. But the cyst did come back eventually, and the second visit wasn’t nearly as interesting. I watched as he deadened your wrist with a shot, cut out the cyst and then sewed it up. And then you and I went and got groceries.
Maybe you remember these stories, Mom. You seem to have much clearer recollections of stories from long, long ago than of events that happened in the last hour. What I remember most about these injuries, and how you handled them, is this lesson: Accidents happen. Injuries, wounds, illnesses and pain are part of life. When they happen, you do your best to fix them or find the best people to help you. You treat them carefully for awhile, do the best you can to heal them, and then you go on.
Through the years I’ve had surgeries, injuries, and lots of pains–of the body and the heart–and I’ve remembered what you said that day in the doctor’s office. “I’m glad that’s over. If it happens again, I’ll know what to do.”
Thanks, Mom, for all the things you taught me just by being you. Love, Marylin