Monthly Archives: March 2014

Phantom Pain


agpaThere are some tragedies which start out slowly, festering and lingering. However, there are those tragedies that lie in wait, disguised as any other ordinary day; springing up without warning with enough force the reverberations are palpable for every moment that follows. August 26, 1966 was an ordinary day for my grandparents, until suddenly it wasn’t.

Some stories that have passed down through the generations are diluted over the years and since this occurred before I was born, I will retell the events as they have been told to me by my parents, both who played integral roles in the day’s events.
It was late summer in Missouri and I know without anyone saying so that it was hot and humid. It was four-thirty in the afternoon and my dad was bush-hogging at my grandparent’s house. Bush-hogging consists of clearing away tall grass and brush from a field by pulling a ‘bush-hog’ behind a tractor. My grandpa had walked out to the field to warn Dad of a large hole that was obscured by the tall grass. Grandpa was about 100 yards away from where my dad was clearing when the blade from the bush-hog came loose. The blade rocketed through the tall grass just as my grandpa took a step right into its trajectory. As if his leg were made of warm butter, the blade sliced through-shattering flesh, muscle, tendon and bone. In an instant, his right leg was clinging to the rest of him by a narrow piece of flesh and a scrap of his pants.
Unbeknownst to my dad, who was unaware my grandpa was in trouble, Grandpa yelled out for help as his life blood gushed into the earth around him. My mom was in the house and heard Grandpa’s cries for help. She looked out and saw him lying on the ground. She ran to him and found him struggling to get his belt off so he could make a tourniquet. She flipped completely out as each time his heart would beat his severed femoral artery would spray them both with his blood. He grabbed her and told her to calm down. He needed her help. He told her to run to the garage and get him a rope. She ran.
When she returned with the rope, my dad was at Grandpa’s side. The missing blade had eventually caused the bush-hog to rattle and shake. After stopping the tractor, he realized that something was wrong. Dad found a piece of binder twine (thin tough rope used to secure hay bales together) and he made a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. In order to get it to stop, Dad had to ratchet it up tightly…very tightly. My mom remembers, “When your dad cinched it up, I will never forget the sound your Grandpa made. It haunts me, that sound. But it stopped. The blood stopped. Your dad saved his life.”
The neighbors called the ambulance and it took Grandpa to a local hospital. My Grandma had about a dozen bouts of hysteria and in the end Grandpa lost his right leg above his knee. He spent 14 days in the hospital. During his hospital stay, a wheelchair ramp was built for him to access his house. Upon his discharge, he was given a set of crutches and a short lesson on how to use them. That was the extent of his physical and occupational therapy. He used the wheelchair ramp a total of one time on the day he came home from the hospital. He used his crutches and eventually a prosthetic wooden leg. Two years after his accident, he returned to work at the lead mines. He wasn’t allowed to go down into the mines with his wooden leg, but he worked topside.
I never knew my grandpa as a two-legged man and it never occurred to me that his wooden leg was anything but normal. Grandpa only completed the sixth grade in school. But he was gentle, humble, wise and tough as nails. He taught me more about history than I ever learned in a classroom and wove outrageous tales that I swallowed hook line and sinker. He made me laugh. I made him laugh. He was a World War II hero, but he never told anyone. We found out after he passed through the Veterans Administration. He had an abundance of humility, which is a sign of a true hero.
The part of the story that pains me the most are the months immediately following his accident. It was the phantom pain–the excruciating nerve pain experienced in an amputated body part. The man who fought valiantly for his country, attempted to make a tourniquet for his severed leg, walked away from his wheelchair ramp, and returned to work after his tragic accident—suffering from a pain so intense that it left him writhing in the floor.
I often wondered about this mysterious pain inflicting such torment through a piece of a person that is no longer there. As my parents relayed the details of this tragic day and memories spilled into more memories, it became evident that Grandpa was a part of all of us. His legacy lives through us. Although the memory of his grit, wisdom and integrity live on in our hearts, he is still a physically missing piece of our lives. Although time dulls the sharpness of the pain the dull ache of loss lingers. I guess we all experience a kind of phantom pain when the physical presence of those we love is severed. Sometimes I wonder what pieces of me will linger in the hearts of those I love when I am no longer here.

Some tragedies linger and fester. Some tragedies blow up in your face without warning. But there are those tragedies, like that hot day in August 1966, which are something entirely different… an interlude to life well-lived; just a small piece of a beautiful soul.

I am Weak and the Devil Knows It

I am Weak and the Devil Knows It


I have hang-ups.  In the category of food, I have MANY hang-ups.   Saturday morning I awoke and abruptly decided to quit drinking soda.  This proclamation came out of the blue and with zero planning or forethought (which is how most of my ideas originate).  I have been drinking diet soda for as long as I can remember.  My mom gets her feathers ruffled when I tease her that she weaned me off of the bottle and straight to Diet Rite cola.  Truthfully, I don’t think it was quite that early, but I developed a taste for saccharine at a very young age.  Eventually, my palate matured and aspartame became my cola sweetener of choice.   So many things have changed over the years, but my addiction to caffeine, aspartame and the carbonated sensation has remained solid; unwavering.    As Day 4 of my pilgrimage toward a life without soda comes to a close, I am exploring tactics in which to successfully avoid falling off the wagon.  The following are some of the tactics I have used in the past to compensate for my food “hang-ups”:

1.  I lie.  This is a tactic I use to scare the people preparing my food into making it exactly as I order it.  I resorted to being a big fat liar after ordering things specifically, only to dig in and find a mouthful of what I find repulsive.  I am now regularly ‘allergic’ to mayonnaise, ranch dressing, blue cheese, olives, and sour cream.  I am always one bite away from a potential anaphylactic episode.

2I fib.  I fib about my hunger status.  My hunger could be so intense that my large intestine starts to feed on my small intestine, but if the baked potato is drowning in sour cream, I am suddenly stuffed! 

3.  I use my imagination.  There are certain foods that I insist  the devil himself cooks in the kitchens of hell (sinful bastard).   These include, but are not limited to: donuts and Mini Cadbury Eggs.  The devil knows my weaknesses and he tempts me with confections.  He is also solely responsible for hotdogs.

cadbury2My husband went with the guys to the St. Louis Bilikens basketball game and brought home a box of donuts from John’s Donuts.  ‘John’ must be short for ‘Satan’ because I just looked in the box and knew that he had had a hand in these baked goods.  As we were leaving for school and work the next morning, I told Sophi, “I cannot believe your dad brought those donuts home. Why can’t he just go to a strip club like other guys?”  Sophi looked at me and said, “You are kidding right?”  I laughed and said, “OF COURSE I am kidding” (I was kind of not kidding).

I have no other explanation for the Mini Cadbury Eggs addiction, other than cute little bunnies have been kidnapped and forced into the depths of hell to crank out these little wicked delights.  For the sake of these little bunny slaves, I try to abstain from partaking in the pastel nuggets of deliciousness.  However, about two years ago the Easter season brought an end to their availability and I panicked.  I bought two huge bags off of eBay.  The wages of sin is death.  It was almost death by Cadbury Mini Eggs for me.  I am a sinner.cadbury

There is no doubt that hotdogs are made in hell.  Not because I love them or find them delicious. In fact, the opposite is true.  I find them repulsive.  They are so utterly vile they must originate in hell.  That is the only logical explanation.

And so it is that I have completely digressed from the theme of this post.  It may be a side-effect from not having diet soda.  Most likely, it is a side-effect of being me.   Keep me in your prayers, as I am not only a freak about food, a liar, a fibber, and a believer in the notion that Satan is pursing me through confectionery enticements, I am now alone in the world without my one vice.  Should you happen upon a trail of crumbled donuts and empty Cadbury Mini-Egg Wrappers, bring me a cold diet Pepsi.  Falling off the wagon usually makes me really

Consider this Can of Worms Open


acanofwormsThere are times when certain things get stuck in my craw and I can’t  manage to cough them up or swallow them down and so it becomes a festering burn.  The school basketball season is winding down and we are on the cusp of the traveling season.  A great deal of my time these past few months has been devoted to spectating youth basketball games and the next few months will comprise much of the same.  I love the game, I love the kids playing the game, but I despise some of the crap that comes out of the mouths of others.

I haven’t always resisted the urge to tell someone to sit down and shut the hell up (sometimes things bypass my craw altogether), but I have been working on tempering my kneejerk reactions to the ridiculousness of others.  Admittedly, I have engaged in verbal sparring with psycho parents from opposing teams.  Thus, I am, by all accounts from some opposing teams, a psycho parent.  I have made great strides in this department and am learning to be as docile as a kitten.  What I have witnessed recently, though, isn’t from the opponent’s sixth man.  The negative shots are being taken at our own team, by our fans (insert heavy sigh here).

Nobody hates to lose more than I do.  I had my Old Maid cards shredded by my parents for marking them when I was just four years old.  I have learned a lot since I was four.  I still have a lot to learn, but I know these things to be true:

  • I am not the one playing.  My child is.  I need to let her play (run, foul, lose, win….)
  • I am not the coach.  Let him/her do the job.  I wouldn’t want him/her to show up at my workplace and scream at me about what a shitty job I am doing.
  • I can see when my kid screws up.  I can see when other kids screw up.  I wouldn’t find it gratifying or necessary to verbally announce a botched play by another player.  I don’t need other spectators to recap her blunders either.
  • I am not raising a professional athlete.  I am raising a child.  It’s a game.  It would be short-sighted for me to view it any other way.
  • Encouragement cannot be an afterthought.  It must be at the center of everything I project from the stands.  Yelling, “Oh, my God, Sophi.  Get your head in the game!” cannot be cancelled out by a follow-up attempt at a platitude.
  • Coaches and referees are not perfect.  They screw up.  We all do.  If there is a coach who is unfair or incompetent (and there are coaches who are both), it is an issue that won’t  be resolved from yelling the obvious from the stands.  Just like athletes, coaches will earn the respect he/she deserves.  The cream will rise to the top.
  • My child needs to get direction from the coach during competition.  If a player is looking in the stands for direction during a game, the cohesiveness of the team is being compromised.  I can help her fine tune her fundamentals in the driveway.

11-11-11 011

When Sophi was little, she placed third in the Elk’s Hoop Shoot contest.  She got a little trophy that I placed on her dresser.  A few weeks later, I found it buried in the bottom of her closet.  I asked why it was shoved in her closet.  She looked at me and said, “Because it was last place.”   There were only three girls in the contest.

Kids know the score.

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

Sophi having a rough meet at Championships

As my child grows up, she will win and she will lose.  She will love and she will have her heart broken.  She will have disappointment and elation.  She will know success and she will know failure.  She will probably be betrayed by someone she trusts and she may learn to trust someone she thought she couldn’t. There will be those along her path who genuinely want to assist her in attaining success and there will be others who do not see her a worthy investment of time or effort.  I pray that she sees the value of cultivating the talents and strengths of others and always knows at the end of the day that encouraging one another in word and deed is the mark of a true champion.    I hope as the seasons of her life pass,  when she sees me on the sidelines, she will know that no matter what the scoreboard says, I will always be her biggest fan.