My father involuntarily caused my first accident (I am not counting the complicated, messy way I was born) and it was a bad one. It involved a tricycle, a flight of stairs and some frustration, but not bad intention, on his part. I was three.
It turned out to be a very dangerous fall, but luckily all I got was a deep, grisly horizontal cut on my chin. The whole bone was jutting out through the skin, fat, muscle and veins, according to my mom. I had to go into surgery to have my chin reconstructed. And it seems the doctors berated my parents telling them I could have bitten off my tongue, I could have fallen on my skull, destroyed my brain, be maimed for life or die.
I have only one memory of it all. My mother making herself up at her dressing table and my reflection in her mirror. Ugly, brown, barb like threads were coming out in knots hanging down my chin. I started pulling at them crying in horror.
Mom, annoyed, told me to stop. “Quit that, they are taking those out today. Give me a minute to get ready and calm down”.
For a couple of years the scar was too big for my tiny face. Too red for my pale skin. Too angry for the gloomy and quiet kid I used to be. Other children would come up to me with curiosity, compassion and fear.
Soon enough, the scar started getting smaller as me and my face got bigger. It became barely visible. The marks of the stitches were still there, but the scar somehow got pulled beneath my chin. Today, you could only see it if I threw my head back completely to show it to you. Or if you crawled on top of me and rested your head on my breasts and looked up.
Dad never forgave himself for that accident. We’d be eating at the kitchen table and he’d reach under my chin and feel the scar, contrite and uneasy like a boy spying on naked ladies.
Sometimes I’d be talking and he’d keep staring at my chin, moving his head around like a parrot to make sure the scar couldn’t be seen from any angle.
“Let me see what I did to you…”, he’d say, when he’d finally ask me to stretch my neck back and shot it to him.
As a teenager, I started to hate when he did that because I was angry at him for other things bigger than a dumb scar: his drinking, his not coming home for days, his friendships with old dirty alcoholics. His not being my Dad anymore…
I am sure he saved me from falling, hurting myself and dying many times. I know for a fact he saved me from a crazy, abusive criminal boyfriend I started dating as a way to get back at him and my mother until I realized I’d probably punish them by dying.
He never stopped drinking. I saw him die. In his hospital bed, terror in his eyes, breathing through a tube he was too weak to reach for my chin. He couldn’t forgive himself even like this: angry at the fact he was leaving life way before he was ready to do it.
He’d fallen down the stairs, just as I did many years ago. The accident that didn’t kill me came back and killed him.
“It’s gone Dad. It disappeared years ago. You can’t even feel it anymore. Go to sleep, Dad” I said while I held his icy hand.
But the scar is still there: embarrassed, quiet, concealed.