Saturday, April 12, 2014

Luke's Nosejob, Part 2

Although we had confidence in Dad’s diagnosis, we were a tad skeptical.  At that moment, however, Mom pulled into the driveway.   Again, I can’t remember who told Mom that Luke “almost cut off his nose” but it must have been one of us liars. 

To us, Luke wasn’t that bad, at least as compared to the other ways we’d injured ourselves.  Mom took one look at Luke and said, “We need to go to the hospital.”

While we boys were thrilled to see some of our old friends at the emergency room, we were confused at Mom’s diagnosis.  Dad was there.  He heard the story—that Mom didn’t believe—and he cleaned the cut, so that should have been the end of the story.

Yet Mom thought we needed some professional assistance. 

Most of the time Dad or Mom made a decision, the other didn’t come home and veto.  I have heard other houses work on this system, whereby one parent makes a hard-and-fast rule establishing a lifetime ban on an activity just long enough for the other parent to come along and blow the whole thing to bits.  Not so with my folks.

Mom and Dad knew about this whole “divide and conquer” mentality that kids have.  They’d been kids before.  They knew that some parents would rather cave into the whining and pleading of the children instead of holding onto rules and parental decrees.  They knew those parents existed, but my Mom and Dad shunned such actions.  

While they knew about “divide and conquer,” they also knew about “the unified front.”

For the uninitiated, “the unified front” sounds like some Cold War underground operation that fought against Soviet infiltration of the garment industry—or something like that.  (Those Soviets were into everything!).  No, “unified front” simply meant that my Mom and Dad shared the same “party line” when it came to parent/child communications.  If Mom laid down the law, Dad knew about it and robustly defended it.  The same with Mom. 

With expectations that Mom would continue to support the unified front—and with blood seeping out from under the band-aids on Luke’s nose—we were shocked, SHOCKED!, at Mom’s declaration. She thought we should go to the hospital. She had gone against what Dad had said.  The unified front has been broken, we all thought. 

We watched for signs of an argument or a closed-door meeting in the other room.  Neither happened.  Dad calmly walked to the car, and we followed.

When we arrived, it was like homecoming at church, with hugs and kisses from long-lost friends.  We’d had a relatively uneventful month of June, so we had grown a few inches since the last time we’d been in the emergency room. 

When the nurse took off the band-aids, she remarked, “These band-aids were a good idea to keep this cut closed until you got to the emergency room.”  Mom looked at Dad accusingly and Dad smiled with confidence. 

Dad didn’t think Luke needed stitches at all, while Mom thought she could see the frontal lobe of Luke’s brain through the cut.  When the doctor came in the room—it was actually a curtained-off area where we could peek at the mutilated and intoxicated on either side of our little rectangle of concrete floor—he took one look at the cut and said, “Wow, who did this to you?”

Luke smiled, mostly because somebody thought he’d been in a fight bad enough for the cut on his nose.  To tell the truth, none of us had been in a fight that bad yet, but Joe and I could lie well enough to at least convince people we had been.  Poor Luke—bad liar. 

When the doctor reached for the needle, we knew that Mom was right and we knew that the unified front was over.  At least we thought we knew. 

There’s something about my parents that we didn’t know about:  while they agree on the rules of the house, they maintain those rules differently. 

Need some help with homework?  Mom’s your best bet.   Dad has the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes to stuff like making posters or memorizing the Gettysburg Address.

Gonna get punished?  Gamble on Dad.  Mom’s just too creative to risk a punishment on.  She might think up something weird like having you dig an irrigation ditch with a baby spoon or something. 

Are you sick, or injured?  Well, we found out which one we needed to go to:  Mom. 

After the doctor finished stitching Luke’s nose, he ended up with eight stitches.    Luke didn’t get a stitch or two just to close the up the wound or to make his face look right again.  The doctor wasn’t humoring anybody.  Luke got eight stitches legitimately.  The boy actually needed them. 

It took us about two seconds to reflect on the situation:   Dad was way off in his diagnosis.  Our world began to spin.  We had a million questions.  Did this mean that Dad was going to be off on everything?  Could we trust him to “feel our head” for a fever or to look at our throats to see if we had malaria?  Standing in that hospital, we had our answer:  no way.

Before you get too rough on old Dad, remember:  he’s not Mom.  He has a major definition deficiency when it comes to sickness or injury.  He went to the same school of diagnosis that football coaches and drill sergeants attend.  In fact, most of his diagnoses were flashbacks from his days as a boxing coach.  He couldn’t read the nuances of health that many professional must be able to read.  He couldn’t just take a look at one of us and know we were sick.  Mom could.  Dad could not. 

Even obvious stuff like a chopped up nose gets by Dad.  Like a colorblind man who can’t tell the difference between brown and red, Dad has a difficult time determining what an injury is and what is not. 

After Luke got his stitches, we tested the “unified front” and we failed.  They were still as unified as ever, and we discovered that fact quickly.  When we got hurt or sick, though, we didn’t ask Dad’s opinion.  And Luke was more careful about how he put his toys away.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Luke's Nosejob, Part 1

If you ever meet my younger brother, Luke, and you look at his face really closely, you can see a scar on the bridge of his nose.  That scar makes me laugh every time I think of it.  It also makes me thankful that my Dad never became a medical doctor.

Growing up, we never had the “don’t throw things in the house rule.”  I am pretty certain that Mom wanted the rule, but whenever she’d try to enact it, one of us would throw something at her.  It wasn’t rebellion, a fight against authority.  Our need to throw things in the house was more of a cultural divide, with my mother as the gatekeeper of all things civilizing while we—the boys—were the barbarians at the gate.

We incorporated throwing into all manner of chores, from laundry to dishes to gardening to housecleaning.  Yep, we had chores.  Yep, we did laundry.  Yep, we threw dishes.  Throughout all the years of throwing things in the house, we never broke a dish or a lamp.  We would watch whole football games while throwing a football around our living room.  With our eyes on the television, we’d have to pay attention to the pigskin being whipped at our heads.  We never broke anything.  Never.   We had sure hands, both in the throwing department as well as the catching department. 

I thought throwing things in the house was a universal practice.  The first time I tried to unload the groceries from the car by throwing one of the bags to Sunday, I almost broke a jar of mayonnaise on her forehead. 

While I’d like to continue bragging about our perfect throwing record, I must be honest.  Luke’s scar represents the truth of my claim, and it is this:  we had a near-perfect record.  Near perfect means that we never broke anything, if you can forget about that one time. 

After two decades of time passed, the story has gotten a little fuzzy.  I can’t remember if I was in the room or if my older brother was there, but I do remember this:  there was a crash of glass and Luke came out of his bedroom with blood streaming down his face.  So much for our perfect record. 

We lived in a pretty destructive household, so a boy with blood streaming down his face wasn’t too uncommon.  I don’t even think Dad looked up from his newspaper. 

Luke said, “Dad, I think we need to go to the hospital.”

Again, this statement wasn’t unfamiliar.  We went to the emergency room quite often.  I bet we were one of the few elementary school kids who could give directions to our house and to the General Hospital there in town.  Toward the end of our rambunctious stage, I believe they had a parking space reserved for the Towles-mobile. 

Without looking up, Dad said, “What’s the matter?”

Luke said, “I cut myself.”

Then, Dad looked up.  “What happened?”

Here’s where the fun began.  Luke has never been a good liar.  The truth is in his face, so his thoughts exist right there for all to see.  If he thinks something’s funny during a funeral, he’s laughing.  Something makes him mad, he’s scowling.  Something stinks, he’s hoping no one thinks he did it.  I must say, his ability to lie must have been given to me and my older brother, Joe.  In fact, compared to Joe, I am a lying amateur, but that’s another story. 

Here’s what Luke said:  “I was putting my football away and it hit the light fixture and broke it.  The glass cut my nose.”

Here’s what Luke meant:  “I was throwing the football up in the air in my bedroom and it hit the light fixture and broke it.  The glass cut my nose.”

Either way, Dad didn’t care.  He wasn’t so much concerned about the lie as he was about the bleeding nose in front of him. 

“Let’s get you cleaned up,” he said.  After getting most of the blood stopped, Dad pronounced Luke cured as he placed the sixth band-aid across Luke’s nose. 

Although we had confidence in Dad’s prognosis, we were a tad skeptical.  At that moment, however, Mom pulled into the driveway.