Last weekend, I went camping with my husband. While there, I saw our neighbor’s dog – a golden retriever walking towards us. He was limping and clearly in pain. His hair was frizzy and felt rough to the touch. His owner (along with a 6 month old baby) came by and explained the dog had cancer and the only treatment would be to amputate two of his legs. Despite this, the dog was happily walking behind his owner and the baby, refusing to let his illness keep him down. The dog seemed happy and rolled over on his back when I was petting him.
I felt overwhelmed with sadness but there was also such preciousness and sweetness in that moment. With the dog, his owner, and the baby, on a camp ground, enjoying the sun. As I sat there, petting the dog, I wished him happiness. I also wished that I’d have the same kind of courage – courage to go on a walk with my loved ones, despite the pain, despite death knocking at my door if I had a terminal illness. It also reminded me how precious life is, that all of us are marching towards death and none of us know how many moments are left.
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I’m taking a Journaling class at The Writing Salon. There’s about 12 students, all women. Frequently, we’ll be given a prompt and asked to write about it. We wrote one on childhood injury or illness. As we went around the room and shared our writing, I thought it would make for a really good This American Life story. I can almost hear Ira Glass’s narration. “In this week’s story, childhood injury or illness. In 12 acts.” Anyway, here’s my story.
I only know that I was severely burned as a young child from the scar on my leg. It goes from my left ankle to my knee. I also know the injury took place because of my mom’s story. I know the story in every detail but I’m almost certain it’s not part of my conscious memory.
I like to pretend the scar doesn’t exist. As though if I can no longer see the scar, others won’t either.
I can only remember three instances where I had to face this scar as an adult.
1. Telling my husband how I got the scar
2. Seeing it in our engagement photo
3. Kimmie asking me
When Kimmie asked “what happened to your leg,” it caught me off guard. You can see my scar…
I didn’t truncate my story (as I normally do). I told the story as it was retold to me. The bursting radiator, the endless doctor visits, my mom asking the doctor “can you use my skin for the skin graft?”
What I don’t remember is the pain. The burn no longer hurts. It’s just a scar. And I remember Kimmie’s response - we all have scars. Wear it with pride.
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