Friday, May 1, 2009

The One with the Machete

The men in my life find some amazing ways to injure their hands. On a camping trip, my father once tried to pull down a dead limb by hooking it with some kind of handsaw and jerking it down—you can imagine how that ended. Stitches, hand surgery, scar tied like a pink ribbon around his pinkie finger. My son used his pocketknife to jab at the force field of plastic packaging around a GI Joe figure. Stitches, blood trail, scar like half-moon in the soft flesh from thumb to index finger. My brother manages to get himself hurt in a wide variety of ways; he could write an entire book of “Drama in Real Life” articles for Reader’s Digest. Recently he skipped a meal and thought he could make one last cut on his table saw. Stitches, hand surgery, scar turning his thumb into a cloven paw.

Eric joined the list last month.

We expanded the garden this year, and keeping out the deer and dogs requires some sort of fencing. He knew where to get some bamboo, so he took a machete and his truck on a Saturday morning and drove out to hunt and gather. I knew where he was going, and I knew that vacant lot also had an abandoned well on the overgrown property. I worried some about the potential headlines: City Employee Stuck in Old Well; City Employee Accidentally Hacks Up Squatter on Abandoned Property with Machete, Then Falls in Old Well.

People with active imaginations sometimes get stuck in a loop of fantastical worries.

But nothing happened, at least not then. He brought me a healthy stack of clean, whispering bamboo stalks. We finished the garden work; I went inside to wash off and left him outside to finish up one last task.

He was splitting some of the thinner bamboo stalks with the machete. It was starting towards dusk—that kind of purple light right before a rainstorm. When I heard him come in, I grumbled about him coming in the front door when I knew his shoes must be covered in dirt, so I went to fuss at him good and proper. Found him in the bathroom, standing over a sinkful of pink water, looking a mite pale.

He’d sliced his right hand to the bone, just below the thumb joint.

The cut looked clean, so we pulled it together with a butterfly closure and wrapped it up. As the week went by, the pain subsided but he became more bothered by it. I suggested he go have somebody look at it. He said “I will if I need to.” He said it he couldn’t move his thumb. I said “Why don’t you have somebody look at it?” He said “I will if I need to.” He complained about it feeling funny. I suggested perhaps somebody could take a look at it. He said “I guess.”

A week after the injury someone besides his wife suggested that he have somebody take a look at it. He went to see the hand surgeon that hour.

Now we know he severed three tendons. Surgery, stitches, cast, physical therapy, and a frown shaped scar staring up at him from his hand, as if his own appendage refuses to forgive him.
For each hand injury, the wives and mothers add to their supply of hand injury stories. My mother drove like a demon out of the woods and into the local Podunk medical center, where she watched inexperienced nurses and doctors poke and prod her husband till he finally passed out. I tell the story of the Battle of Packaging whenever Aj needs reminding about using good judgment. My sister-in-law could make a mint on a comedy tour titled “Guess What My Husband Did Next?”; she spins good yarns and my brother’s insistent corrections for accuracy only make them more hilarious.

I dragged my feet on submitting this blog, on telling this story. While my dad was still recovering from his hand surgery years ago, my mom wouldn’t even stay in the room when he explained the injury to curious friends and neighbors. Now she can unravel the entire episode in riotous detail. She knows he’s safe now, the crisis over. Meanwhile, Dad is the one who turns away from the scene now—wincing at his own momentary stupidity and the risks he took in his youth.

It took a while to feel inspired to write about this one. Even that tiny little bit of my husband being not quite right makes me edgy and worried—he feels so solid and healthy and invincible to me. I needed my crazy mind to stop spinning up horrific tales of possible ways this could go wrong; I needed some normalcy before I could face it in my own way—writing.

Yesterday Eric came home from work and announced he was sick of talking about his damn hand. Just tired of fooling with the whole business. He popped opened a beer and went to see about grilling something, one-handed, for dinner. He seemed fine, just tired of the burden of telling about his own split-second accident. He seems fine.

Now it can be my turn to tell the story.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to that. I hope his hand heals well. I had my right hand closed in a piece of machinery about 4 years ago. Lost the pinkie at the second knukle and crushed the ring finger. The only thing that bothers me about it, other than the loss of grip in that hand, is the nail on the crushed finger is crooked and there is no nail on the pinkie. I guess on the up side, it doesn't take as much nail polish.