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Accidents are just stitches in time

The nice doctor asked, “Have you ever had stitches before?” My son shook his head. “Well,” Dr. John said, “this is a good time to start.” It probably wasn’t the first time he’d ever said that.It’s summer, and for some reason, when school ends, a rash of accidents suggests that kids had forgotten how to play.With permission, I watched curiously as John gathered the edges of the hole in Teddy’s head, hooking one stitch inside and six outside. They perched atop a lump as big and blue as the bottom of an Easter egg.Teddy,12, had been on a trampoline, wearing a snow skate, doing a flip. With a “grab” – holding the skate with his hand. I don’t actually quite know what a snow skate is: apparently something that hits foreheads. A plastic thing. That he and his friends were wearing on their feet while jumping. That has now been retired. Teddy’s buddy Carson, who’d run for bandages while a palmful of blood spilled into Teddy’s hand, had immediately said, “He almost made it! He looked really good until he crashed.”Teddy’s brother, Roy, 9, who thought he was qualified – highly – to diagnose, had said: “He doesn’t need stitches. Just a Band-Aid.”The doctor said lightly that there’d be a scar.My first stitches were at age 7, five of them, whisker-like, under my chin after a crash on the bathroom floor. My husband, I am astonished to hear, has never once had stitches. Apparently I am far klutzier. As an adult, I gained five stitches with a slice to the palm while chopping kindling, and 11 in a fall, despite the presence of a spotter, at a bouldering contest, splitting my shin on a rock. Some of us had to catch a plane that day, and one friend hustled me into the emergency room while another idled our getaway car outside. The doctor obligingly zigzagged in stitches the size of ice-skate laces, and we made the flight. There have been a few minor surgeries here and there as well. I have never cared about the scars scattered across my person, but I find I don’t really want any more on my face. Just after college, I ran down my parents’ driveway in the dark, and took a hanging, thorny branch between the eyes. My physician father rolled his eyes and stretched on a butterfly bandage; which is what I did after the last time I went ice climbing, when a chunk of ice flew out and hit me above the lip, hard as a punching fist. I remember blood spraying across the white ice. Lately, barreling out of my office, looking down at a fistful of papers, I smacked the corner of an unfolding pull-up board that some coworkers were using in the hall. Knocked flat, I looked up to see three concerned faces peering down at me. I touched a finger to my forehead and found blood. I didn’t care about the mighty, green, rising knot, or potential black eye, but rushed to a mirror, because I am starting to feel like the Bride of Frankenstein. Fortunately, the cut was shallow.In Teddy’s place, I would have asked about the scar. He only said, vehemently, “I have to be able to put a bike helmet on!” He, his brother, and father were to go off the next day to a bike race in Buena Vista.A nurse gently laid a bandage over the tidy hedge of black reef knots. The patient suddenly looked downcast, and we realized that he wanted to show the guys. They, when we met outside, were rapt. I sanctioned a quick lift of the adhesive veil. Roy punched the air. “My brother has stitches!” he exulted. “Hooray!”Carson observed interestedly, “You look like Chucky,” the doll of horror-movie fame.”This scar,” Teddy said, “is going to be awesome.” Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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