One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


"You're not crying are you?"

There's an edge to my voice that isn't coming from the pain of road rash or my bruised and potentially broken ribs.

"No. No. I'm just pushing up my glasses!"

"Good." I pause to spit some blood and another tooth chip into the waist high grass and then resume my ponderous, limping walk. "I hate criers."


"Kel, hon, it's Dad."

"Hey, Pa. What's up?"

"Mom and I wanted to see if you needed us to come up and take care of you for a few days. Mom broke her ribs a few years ago and knows how hard it is to take care of yourself."

"Really, Daddy. I'm fine. I promise."

"All right. How'd the CT scan go?"

"Laying down hurt so badly I wanted to cry."

"Did you?"


"That's my girl."


"After this is all over, you and I can't be friends anymore."

"What? Why?"

"Last night when you came in to check on me, not only was I in my PJs, not wearing a bra, but I was asleep with my mouth open."

"And you looked like an angel."

"Oh, go to hell."


If our family had a coat of arms, our motto would be "We don't raise sissies." My mom in particular is one tough lady. When she fractured her ribs she didn't cry, she cussed a blue streak. A few years later, on bed rest after minor surgery she kept getting up and driving herself to the grocery store and trying to wash the windows. Dad joked that we were going to have to put her in a strait-jacket just to keep her from hurting herself. Nothing, it seemed, could make Mom drop her guard for long enough to ask for help.

This is a trait she's passed on to me. Despite being, on occasion, a very girly-girl I am decidedly not a sissy. I clean out my own mousetraps, wrestle with my brothers, drink and cuss like a seventy-five year old sailor on shore leave. I project, I've been told, an image of invulnerability augmented by the fact that I don't cry when I've hurt myself; talk about my feelings; or let other people do things for me.

During the past five days I've had to give up the illusion of invulnerability. On Saturday I crashed my bike on the Wobegone trail. I ended up in the E.R. with a chipped tooth, myriad cuts in my mouth, road rash and bruising on my arms and legs, and bruised and potentially fractured ribs. My tooth has been repaired and the various bruises and scrapes are healing nicely, but my ribs remain problematic. Deep breaths hurt. So does sitting up, laughing, getting into/out of a chair, dressing myself, shampooing my hair, or a number of other daily tasks. Laying down to sleep is out of the question. Sneezing is excruciating.

As I am unable to do a number of tasks on my own, I've been reduced to asking for help for everything from zipping up my dresses in the morning to taking out the trash. I've been utterly self-sufficient since I was eighteen, so this is slightly problematic. In the past week, I've had to learn to both ask for and rely on others. I've had to look at my construction of myself as invulnerable.

I've found it lacking.

What The Palm-Reader Told Me

At twenty-one I had my palm read by a Romani gypsy. She did not have scarves or bangles, but eyes so dark they terrified me. After one look at me she asked: "You are also a gypsy?" It was a secret my grandmother had told me years before, after too much dancing to and too much wine at a wedding. I never told a soul. "It's in the way you hold yourself." She said, and smiled and resumed with my palm. I would be, she told me, prosperous in business and fiercely independent, but unlucky in love, among other things. For years, I forgot everything that she said, recalling it only after a bad break-up or a good job interview. I thought of it again this morning when you caught my eye in the mirror and laughed. I was struggling to zip up my dress and my contortions caught your attention. You came up behind me, ran the zipper smoothly to the top and kissed my shoulder. When you left the bathroom to butter my toast and make my coffee I couldn't help but wonder if she had gotten something wrong.

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