Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Human Expression

Ze Frank asked for this on his blog today. I liked what I wrote, so I'm putting it here, too:

would love your story
i am interested in a particular memory: the uncomfortable moment when you first see your parent (mother or father) as being weak...being human. could you describe that moment? and tell me how old you were.

My dad was planting a rosebush in the backyard for my mom. I got to go watch him. I was small enough to be up to his shoulder when he was squatting down. The rosebush was potted in a metal can, and he cut the can with pruning shears to split it open to get the rosebush out.

As he maneuvered the plant and pot to release the plant, the metal can cut his left hand between the thumb and forefinger. I had never heard the "S" word before but I understood right away what it was for. I can still hear it the way he said it - a primal "S" word, no time to think about who might be standing nearby.

He put his hand to his mouth and spit an arc of blood to the grass behind him. The afternoon sun caught highlights of red and yellow orange against the backdrop of green lawn. He was wearing a black plaid shirt he wore a lot in those days. I waited silent a moment then asked if he was okay and he said, "yes," and kept planting, "sorry about the cursing."

What happened to the moment next falls into imagination. Did I go get my mom? Did he go treat the wound? Did she come out and ask what happened?

I still see the sunlit arc of blood and spit and green grass and still sense the toddler's insight that Daddy is one of us.

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