Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hanging On

Sophie fell today in her room. I was doing laundry or at least carrying the laundry basket toward the laundry room, and I heard the thump and her cry. Sophie doesn't cry, really, but she squawks, and this one was loud enough that I ran into her room. She was on her hands and knees on the carpet and blood was dripping down from her head into her eyes. There was blood on the carpet and dripping down the dresser. "Oh my God, Sophie," I think I said, and I grabbed her green and white pajama pants from the bed and lay her down, looking for where the cut might be. Now, Sophie has fallen many times in thirteen years and had a number of accidents, both big and small. We are no strangers to stitches and emergency rooms and all that crap, so my thoughts were running along the lines of where is it? where is the cut? Is it huge? Did she split her head open? Where is it? And while I'm thinking this, I'm going through her thick, curly hair trying to find where the blood is coming from. I found it, just at the top of her forehead, about an inch back, so that's where I pressed the pajama pants. And then I grabbed the phone, which happened to be on her bed and called Michael. "You have to come home and help me," I said when he answered. "Sophie fell and cut her head."

"Oh, Jesus, I'm on my way," he replied and we both hung up. We know what to do and we're like one person in an emergency. When I pulled the pajama pants away, the bleeding seemed to have stopped and I wondered whether I would have to go to the hospital at all. We hate going to the hospital. Probably a lot more than most people. And the cut didn't look too bad, like a puncture almost. I couldn't figure out if it was big enough or deep enough to stitch, but when Michael came running into the house and her room, he took a look and said that it was going to be fine.

That was all I needed. We wiped all the blood off her face and around the cut. Michael snipped a little of her hair and put a red bandaid over the cut, and I changed my bloody pants and soaked them in cold water with Sophie's pajamas. Then he went back to work and I made Sophie some lunch. The babysitter came soon after and took a look at the cut, too. We thought that it needed a butterfly bandaid, so I went over to the grocery store to buy some.

That's when I started to shake and cry. In the car, on the way to the grocery store. Sophie has hurt herself much worse before and she's also been hospitalized for much worse. I'm aware that I'm exceptionally calm in a crisis, hers or anyone's, really, and it's only afterward that I actually fall apart. But today I felt too broken up about it. I had the thought that things weren't getting easier for me. Or for Sophie. For any one of us. That I wasn't getting used to things and stronger. I felt, instead, weakened. At the edge. Hanging on. Why is that, I wonder? Am I finally burnt out? It was just a cut, after all. And I know that I shouldn't go looking for it to be more. For it to be a symbol of the whole situation.

As I was pushing my cart back to my car, the guy from the grocery store who collects all the carts walked up to me. He was old and had a pronounced limp. Our local grocery store hires quite a few special needs adults, to their credit, and this guy appeared to be one of them. He helped me put the bags into the back of my car and then took my cart and added it to the long line that he had already collected. I thanked him and went to get into the car, but he spoke.

"You look sad," he said, "But you're so beautiful."

In a weird and almost superficial way, that was what I needed to hear. It was the nicest thing I'd heard in a while, actually.

In the end, Sophie didn't need the butterfly bandage. Her head looks all right. She'll be fine and I guess that I will, too.


  1. I am always surprised at how powerful a kind word from a stranger can be.

  2. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word from a stranger. Pass it on and the world becomes a better place.

  3. ..and not just the kind words from a stranger, but the way that a person who knows nothing about you, can read you, and seem to know exactly what you are feeling. Why is that so comforting?

    I also love the way you write about your relationship with Michael. You are like the wonder twins.

  4. What a tough day. How amazing one statement from a stranger can be such a comfort. It really makes you wonder how you can help someone with just a smile and a nice gesture.

  5. I'm glad you had the words you needed when you needed them. I know what it's like to hang on by a thread, and have one word stitch me back up again. Hang in there.

  6. Oh, honeybear, you are rocking my world. It is SO remarkably brilliant to have a place to read your beautiful, heartbreaking/ heart-swelling truth. I miss you like crazy.

  7. Elizabeth, I think it's good you let go when you can. No one can maintain such calm for so long. And finding healing in the strength of your husband and the words of a stranger is what makes you a very special person.

  8. I like your description that you and your husband are like one person in an emergency. That's how I feel about Roger and myself. We are past the stage of the ER frequent flyer miles, but your description brings it all back. I hope you are finding that hour here and there when you can let go of obligations and responsibilities and do what you need, think what you want, and just be free of the situation, if only in your mind, just for that short space. Keep that space in your mind clear and uncluttered, where only you can go--if that makes sense. It's what helps me.

  9. I didn't take a breath, the whole while I was reading that post.
    You ARE beautiful. Don't let go.

  10. Elizabeth, you've managed to end a very tense, scary story with a beautiful ending. The man's kindess and his difficulty believing that a beautiful woman could be sad(I think all of us males have believed that at one time or another) turned pain into relief, if not bliss.

    It's the kind of insight that reminds me of Patry Francis's blog, simply wait:
    She's been battling cancer for the past year, but she always writes of love and hope.

  11. I think we all need those moments, a small respite to let us be consumed.

    Then you put the smile back on.



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