Mom = safe... One of my earliest memories is from when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My brother Scott and I had been playing out in the field near our house, digging a hole to make a “fort”. I was wielding a spade, and Scott a garden rake. At one point we encountered some hard dirt, and Scott swung the rake overhead like a pick – but hit my head instead of the dirt.
Various people I've told this story to have immediately assumed that this skull vs. rake encounter explains some of the mental aberrations they believe I possess. However, so far as I can tell the only direct consequence of that rake to the head was blood – a lot of blood. Scalp wounds are notorious for bleeding heavily, and I had a bodacious scalp wound: a semi-circular incision about 8" long, resulting in a flap the size of a small dish that fell forward over my forehead. Blood was pouring over my face, to the point where I could scarcely see. My head hurt like hell. I did what any kid would do: I ran for my mother.
She was perhaps 100' away, working in the kitchen of our house. I can only imagine what she felt when she heard me burst through the door, yelling my head off, then saw me looking like someone who'd had a bucket of blood poured over their head. I do know that she fell to her knees and looked absolutely stricken. That so surprised me that I stopped yelling and started to get worried. Years later mom told me that she had very nearly passed out, but managed to get herself together while on her knees.
Shortly after that she was talking to me, to make sure I was still alive. Then she started looking carefully at my head, discovered the flap of scalp, and flipped it roughly back into place. Watching her, I saw her getting covered with blood (especially her hands and arms) – and that's the first time I really understood that I was bleeding heavily. Next thing she did was to call our family doctor, an old fashioned general practitioner named Dr. Norman Garwood, located in Crosswicks (about a half hour from our home). She got his wife and assistant, who quickly got the doctor himself on the phone. Good old Dr. Garwood calmed mom down, asked some questions, had her put a clean towel over my head, told her to have me press that towel down (which hurt!), then told her to bundle me into the car and get me to his office as fast as she could.
Mom did exactly that – we were on the road in about 30 seconds. She didn't even wash the blood off her hands. I remember riding in the passenger seat (instead of the back seat like we usually did), with her talking to me the whole time to make sure I wasn't passing out. She also kept hollering at me to press harder on that towel; she was worried about how much blood I was losing (later, Dr. Garwood assured her that I hadn't lost enough to be worried about, other than making a mess). The blood on my face was starting to congeal, and that felt weird and uncomfortable. It also smelled and tasted odd.
Most of all, though, I remember feeling safe, despite the frightening thing that had happened to me. Why? Because mom was there, doing her mom thing: comforting me, making sure I was ok, getting me to medical help. To me, she looked cool, calm, and totally on top of things. I never felt in danger at all. I felt pain, to be sure, but never actually threatened. Her total focus on me and my injury surrounded me like a protective cocoon.
Moms are an awfully good thing...
When we got to Dr. Garwood's office, he was all ready with the cleaning supplies, needles, and thread. He spent a half hour or so getting all the dirt (from the rake) out of my wound, then just a few minutes stitching it up. I got a lollipop and bragging rights for a bunch of stitches (which were, much to my chagrin, almost invisible under my then-thick head of hair).
Many years later, mom told me that the trip to Dr. Garwood's office that day was one of the most terrifying things she'd ever done, and not just because I was bleeding all over the place. As long as I kept talking, she said, she figured I wasn't about to croak. She was most frightened by the possibility that my skull had been cracked, and that I'd suffered some sort of brain damage (and I can hear the jokers now!). She was also frightened by something else: she and dad had no money to pay Dr. Garwood or a hospital: I'd sustained this injury at a very dicey moment for them, financially. I don't remember hearing her talk with Dr. Garwood about the money issue, though she said I was there. Dr. Garwood told her not to worry about the money; he'd give her a bill that they could pay if and when they could. If and when they could. He also told her that that was true for any emergency medical situation – don't worry about the money, just get the emergency dealt with. Years later, when she told me about her side of this story, that was what she remembered most clearly: Dr. Garwood telling her just not to worry about the money. Mom and dad did pay Dr. Garwood back, but it wasn't until the following spring, nearly a year later. She took him a check with an apple pie as “interest” – and we heard about that apple pie for years afterwards when we saw Dr. Garwood :)