Friday, January 11, 2013

Vulnerable


There is a moment every year when I realize I've lost the sun.  As if the frozen air has plucked every ray from my flesh, scraped away summer's glow with icy claws, leeched the color from my skin.  Perhaps it's a redhead thing, this day when you notice that you've passed on from ivory and now are somewhere closer to alabaster.  Just a notch or so from transparent.  Oh, how I do miss the feel of warm rays spilling over my bare shoulders and down my back...

Spring, please hurry.

At any rate, the other night I was sitting next to one of my boys and discovered him staring at my hand.  "Mom," he whispered, "I can see your pulse."  I chuckled and told him now he could be sure now I wasn't a vampire--he grinned, but looking at the back of his own hands, he shook his head.  "My hands don't have those veins."  I ruffled his hair, "Well love, that's because you're young, perhaps you won't have hands like mine."  He seemed slightly disconcerted by this, my youngest and I have much in common, but his brother called and off he ran to play.

Evening was approaching, afternoon's light beginning to fade as the night drew near.  I sat in the dusk, swirling the wine in my glass, marveling a bit at the contrast of my pale skin against the crimson liquid.  You could plainly see blue lines, veins tracing the length of my fingers, across the back of my hand, disappearing as they swirled around the bones of my wrist.  I've always been lucky as far as needles go.  A slightly bizarre thing to say, but having such a surface bloodway means that the one in the crook of my elbow is raised up, a quarter inch wide, it cannot be missed. (it always thrills the nurses--once I had a doc ask if I would come in to let the new aides train on me.  Um.....no.)  But such things are not without peril.

I have my mother's veins. 

How strange to stumble across a memory tucked long ago into the eves of my mind...

I was about seven or so.  Mum was drying dishes with me, taking care of the more fragile ones.  I remember us just chatting on, and there was a clink.  One of the large wine glasses had broken....with her hand inside of it.  I remember the scarlet spray that hit the wall in front of us.  The pulse of it that was her heartbeat seen, like a mad macabre sprinkler.  That split second where my mind added up the volume and the throb of it all and arrived at how serious the injury must be...and for the first time, there in our kitchen with the green ivy towels, my mother became mortal.  This superhero who ran our ranch with an iron hand, could fly through the door snatching a loaded gun which hung on a rack above each, and cock it with deadly accuracy before even hitting the ground outside--beware ye wolves and mountain lions, our horses were not for you.  Suddenly before my eyes, the bulletproof super woman bled....alot. 

She wrapped her hand in a kitchen towel, it was soon soaked.  As I've mentioned, our land was a long way from any doctor's office.  I remember sitting in the passenger seat as she fumbled with the keys...and then stopped.  The towel was dripping and there was no way she could drive.  Back inside, she called for help and wonderful friends rushed like madmen to our side.  They whisked her off and a few stayed with us girls; my father had a moment of sheer panic when he arrived home to a blood drenched kitchen and a house full of people, but all was soon explained.  There were stitches and a bandage and that evening, lying in my bed long after dark, I knew my mother was safe upstairs.  But invincible no more. 

The things that shape us.  Ideas and dreams and memories.  Do you know, I've never once put my hand inside of a wine glass to dry it.  I am stronger than most people I meet.  I am six feet tall and have a 36 inch inseam and own my own heavy bag.  But the truth remains, every superhero has a kryptonite.  A chink in the armor, an achilles heel...a broken heart, nightmares, shattered hopes, lost causes.  Beautiful humanity.  We are so strong.

And vulnerable.

23 comments:

Wow, that was awkward said...

The first time I ever realized my parents were vulnerable was when I was 22 and at work in Chicago. My dad called from Florida regarding my mom's surgery. Supposedly it was routine, as per the limited information my parents ever told my sister and I. Little did we know it was quite the opposite (found out way after the fact). But I had my first inkling when my dad called me to say she was out of surgery and that she'd be okay. He was bawling. I never saw or heard him cry before. He kept his fears to himself and then released it all when he finally knew it would be okay. Freaked the shit out of me.

The Path Traveled said...

Chantel,
this is such a bitter sweet memory. Brings tears and smiles as I read it. There are memory's of my mom that pop in my mind at the strangest moments.
Thanks for sharing.

Robbie Grey said...

A wiseman said unto me that we all believe our parents are ten foot tall and bulletproof. The shattering of that delusion was my father's two heart attacks and my mother getting sick and...well, you know. My grandmother did the same to me. So much for immortality, but so it goes.

I have my great grandmother's veins, but I've always been rather skinny. Be that as it may, I refuse venerability. One vow I have is a future tattoo across my breastbone reading unbreakable. But, paradoxically, I allow for my humanity. Strange.

Mel Heth said...

I still don't think I've seen either of my parents badly hurt or bleeding (unless I blocked it out) and I'm sure it'll turn me upside-down when I do. Seeing blood spray in the kitchen sounds totally scarring! Mr. W sliced a chunk of his finger off slicing sweet potatoes on a mandolin one night. I was no help. I got woozy and couldn't look.

I'm thinking you need to make a trip to California for some sunshine. :)

ND Mitchell said...

This was a beautifully described life lesson. The clarity of the description makes it obvious how much this incident is still a part of you. It's true that we all want to be strong for our kids but maybe the challenge is how to gradually reveal our mortality to them so it doesn't come as such a shock. Easy to say but how to do that and who really wants to... Thought provoking as ever. Here's to the sunshine!

Shea Goff said...

I'm reading a book right now about how vulnerable art is, about how we fear putting ourselves out there in complete honesty because the world can supposedly be such a bad place.

I, of course, love your story.

Thank you for showing us those veins, how your heart beats. No doubt you are strong but your vulnerability makes you brave.

Shelly said...

How visual... and how visceral. That such an impossibly thin layer of skin is all that keeps our heartbeat intact is a staggering thought.

You have her veins, her blood, her DNA, and most of all, her beautiful heart.

Brian Miller said...

ah i remember my own moment of mortality with my parents as well..it was discovering my father had skin cancer when one burst in a snow sledding accident...he had been hiding it from everyone...shivers...

Chantel said...

Brett--wow, that would have scared the crap out of me! Do you suppose we are the same to our kids?

Betty--thank you, amazing how those memories just come to life at the most unexpected times, isn't it?

Robbie--I like your tatoo idea...do you mean your body or your heart? :) Humanity, such a fragile thing.

Mel--California sounds heavenly right now!! Tell Mr. W to be more careful!

David--sunshine indeed! :) As far as the revelation of mortality--my boys get freaked out when I just get a cold or sleep in! lol I suppose it's just because I so rarely do. Small steps, eh?

Shea--thank you dearest, the book sounds interesting, will you send me the title?

Shelly--such a lovely thing to say, I do hope so! (and yes, it is a frightening thought)

Brian--oh, how terrible! To hide such things, heart breaking.

Vapid Vixen said...

THIS? This was so beautifully written. And now I'm adamantly refusing to think about my parents mortality because I just don't need a snotty nose while finishing my coffee on a Sunday morning.

Out on the prairie said...

The sharing and caring brought back a good childhood memory of me helping my invicible mother

FrankandMary said...

When I first realized my dad wasn't Superman, it was like an amplified sadistic howl knifing thru my head(well, I was also dealing with the fact he had early-alz). Somewhere along the way I discovered that Not being Superman is probably better, in the long run, than being him. And not being Superman's daughter is better as well.

Mary Kirkland said...

The first time I realized my dad was vulnerable was when he had his hand smashed inside the truck he drove and had to have surgery to fix his broken hand and fingers.

See Kate run. said...

Beautifully rendered. I still have not had this particular lesson; I can only marvel that my oldest cousin is balding. Oh, mortality- you plodding terror.

Starlight said...

I loved this story, it's perfectly written. Finding out that our parents are just people is scary, I can't remember how or when I realised that.

theravenloon said...

It's final, we ARE related. I have my grandmothers raven hands; more appropriate as bird feet than a woman's hands. sisters of well worn hands unite!
I've broken the wineglass with my hand inside as well. Thankfully my hands are the size of ...well, birds feet, so it was just a nick.
(BTW, you know me as la fin / le chef... shutting those blogs down and have started fresh.)
I always love reading your blog. :)

Lyndsay Wells said...

Your words have so much power Chantal. This really moved me.

Chantel said...

Vixen--no crying over coffee, and no, your parents are not mortal. *sigh* xo

Prairie--wonderful!

Mary--you are so right love, being a super hero's daughter would be hell indeed.

Mary--ouch! *wince*

Kate--lol, I love the word "rendered." Balding? Oh, the agony of the slow journey.

Starlight--thank you and I'm so glad that no matter whenever it happened, it didn't involve blood!

Raven--damn, I have missed you! Bird hands...exactly the right phrase, sista!

Lyndsay--thank you so much, that's the most lovely compliment. xo

BamaTrav said...

Ahhhh yes, that moment you realize that your parents are only human. The transition into the next stage of your own life. xo

Jessica B said...

You write with the perfect amount of emotion... it's not easy to be vulnerable...

Dee said...

Dear Chantel, I've been away from reading blogs for six weeks and so have missed all your recent musings. Please do let me know if there are any you'd especially like me to read.

Your posting today--with its poignant story of your mom and your first realization of her mortality--reminds me of when I first realized that my mom could die and that I'd be left alone. Bereft. Those moments are a treasure trove of feelings and realizations and also commitments to ourselves. Thank you for sharing this memory that is in the treasure trove of your past. Peace.

Chantel said...

BamaTrav--it was life altering, for sure.

Jessica--thank you.

Dee--welcome back. :) I don't know what I will do when my mother passes...unimaginable, that.

Stephanie said...

You have such a beautiful, melancholic way of writing, Chantel. Thank you so much for this post. The day after I read this post, I almost had this experience with my girls when I cut my hand with a knife. Luckily, they did not really witness the fainting and dripping blood, so I guess they will be fine and not remember much of it later; but I had to think about you immediately while laying on the floor trying to get my blood pressure and bleeding under control...