Memories · The Next Half Century

Be Careful!

Last week I went on a simple solo hike through the woods to the lake. It was a beautiful, warm summer day with a clear blue sky — the perfect day to commune with nature and be alone with my thoughts. It ended with yet one more accident to add to the list of reasons why my wife worries about me when I take a hike or start a project around the house. It’s just one more injury on a long list of accidents I’ve logged in my more than half century of living.

My trouble began last week when I finished a short 1 1/2 mile hike through the woods. I started to descend a short hill to the beach and the lake. About half way down I felt my feet slip out from under me and a second later I toppled forward into the sand. It would’ve been a soft landing except on the way down a small tree stump caught my right leg and hit hard against my shin. I stood up on the beach, spit the sand out of my mouth and did the first thing any hiker would do — check to make sure no one saw my clumsy move. They didn’t.

Back at home, my wife gasped when I finally showed her my leg. I assured her the swelling was down considerably since I first incurred the injury. It still looked bad enough to appear broken. A quick trip to the emergency room verified it was not broken, but did confirm my leg was infected. I also learned a memory trick to care for my injured leg — R.I.C.E. rest, ice… elevate. I can’t remember what “C” stands for — even memory tricks can’t help my aging brain.

As I rested, iced… and elevated my leg, I remembered some of the more epic injuries in my life — even though I can’t remember the word for “C”. There was the time when I was five that I was hit by a car. I vividly remember being under the car and the huge bruise on my elbow. The fact I don’t remember seeing the car before it hit me tells you I didn’t look both ways before crossing the street to the playground. Fortunately for me it was in a neighborhood and the car was going slow.

When I was six years old, I jumped off a fence into some tall weeds and found a large spike sticking out of a board. It pierced the calf of my leg and required a trip to the emergency room where my wound was promptly stitched up. It also traumatized my sister who asked why I was being such a crybaby when I ran to the house. One look at my bleeding leg oozing skin tissue promptly answered her question.

Then there was the time, when I was around seven years old, I ran into the kitchen full speed and hit the open refrigerator door head on. The old steel door knocked me out cold. I woke up laying flat on my back on the lawn in our backyard. I recall the look of relief on the faces of my siblings and mom as I looked up at them from the ground.

In fourth grade I was walking to get my coat at the end of the school day and I hit my hand on a sharp corner on a table in the back of the classroom. The resulting cut just below my middle finger was deep enough so I could see my knuckle bone. My teacher almost fainted when I showed her the wound. “Go to the office!” She gasped as she held her mouth. I was taken to our family doctor who stitched up the wound. I am right-handed so for a couple weeks I struggled to complete school work with my left hand. I think because my teacher saw my wound, she pitied me and didn’t make me do all the assignments. My classmates were jealous and I slightly embarrassed by the special treatment — but not enough to enjoy less schoolwork.

Years later I found myself in the emergency room again after I opened the radiator cap on the engine in our car. I had let the car cool down, but was surprised by some pressure on the cap. Coolant sprayed on my face. I quickly ran to our bathroom and jumped in the shower fully clothed to rinse my eyes. When my wife heard the shower, she knew it wasn’t good. She took me to the hospital along with our two year-old daughter. The doctor placed a contact lens type thing in my eyes with a small tube attached and proceeded to irrigate my eyes. My daughter stared at me in amazement as water streamed out of my eyes. “Daddy cry,” she said.

There are many more incidents I could share with you, but you’ve already been generous with your time reading this far. Through it all I am thankful none of them was serious enough to be life-changing. I count my blessings. I’m not exactly proud of my long list of injuries, but it does come in handy as a great conversation starter. For some reason when you talk about your injuries it prompts others to chime in with the gory details about their epic injuries. Which reminds me, I just remembered what that “C”* stands for: “Careful” as in “Be Careful!” I think I wrote that on my forehead, but I can’t see it.

* R.I.C.E. stands for: rest, ice, compression, elevation.

Part of the scenic hike I took last week.

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