I’m a tough guy. Oh, maybe not in the Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis way, but I can hold my own. I don’t jump bridges with cars or drive cars into helicopters, and I am not about to try to take out a gang of drug lords unarmed by myself, but I have been in some pretty tough scraps in my day. I even have the scars to prove it.
When I was 4 or 5, I kicked down a door. That’s right, I just kicked it down. OK, I knocked it down, well, ran through it actually. OK it was a sliding glass door and I was running away from a dog, but still it was my knee that took out that door. I even got stitches for my effort and a big ol’ scar running right across the top of my kneecap. I was supposed to be down for a nap, but I snuck out to go visit a friend who lived in the house behind us. His mom was Windexing the glass door and she closed it after I walked in—but I didn’t see her do that. When she went to go find my friend (I wish I could remember his name) the family dog—a mean, vicious Rottweiler, or maybe it was a Doberman Pincer, no…it had to be pit bull; (alright, it was a little yip yip dog)—came running around the corner and startled me. Remember, I was 4, so it seemed pretty scary to me. I turned and ran toward what I thought was an open door. Boy, that Windex does a good job of cleaning glass. It sure looked like an open door. Even the little pieces that lay on the ground after I broke it were clean—except for the pieces with blood on them. My blood on them. Ouch. That was my first set of stitches. It would be the first of many.
Then there was the time I decided to go fossil hunting. I was going to be a paleontologist and discover the great T-Rex. The school arranged a field trip to a quarry for my fourth-grade class to explore. I announced that I needed the proper tools for my expedition—a shovel, a dust brush, a magnifying glass and the most important of all: a pickaxe. What paleontologist doesn’t have a pickaxe? Of course I needed a pickaxe. My mother, however, decided that a pickaxe was too dangerous and a shovel was too big so she gave me a more age-appropriate tool. Of course, it was a tablespoon. That larger utensil would make all the difference as I dug and prevent me from ridicule from all the other would-be paleontologists in the class. Not.
I was crushed. How could I be a serious paleontologist with a tablespoon? My mother had crushed my tough guy image. No one would take me seriously with a table spoon. And all because she thought a pickaxe would be too dangerous. She knew I would hurt myself or put an eye out with the sharp point. Well, I showed her the error of her thinking. I didn’t need a pickaxe to hurt myself. I can do it just fine with a table spoon.
While climbing an embankment, the gravel gave way under my shoe and I slipped. The handle of the tablespoon in my hand jammed into my chin, giving me a nice laceration which bled profusely and grossed out all the other paleontologists in my class. That one got me 7 more stitches, plus 5 bonus hidden stitches.
My mother tells her friends that I was so accident-prone that, by today’s standards, she would have been investigated for child abuse. I had more cuts and scrapes and sets of stitches than most kids my age. But it didn’t stop when I grew up.
While I was in the Army, I was doing night maneuvers in an armored personnel carrier while wearing Night Optical Devices (NODs—night vision glasses) and the hatch of the APC slammed into the back of my head. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet, so the hatch didn’t hurt me, but it pushed my head into the hatch rim, which pushed the NODs into my face. I got a cut over my right eyebrow from that one—5 more stitches.
Surprisingly, I never broke a bone. Sure, I have sprained an ankle or ten, but nothing broken. One time, when I was about 10 or 11, I fell out of a tree onto a root. The full force of the impact was taken by my forearms, which bruised nice and purple, but did not break. Sadly, that meant no cast. Cool tough guys in school had casts—and not the sissy purple or pink or green fiberglass casts that kids get these days. No, we had the 100-pound white plaster casts that could split a skull. All the other tough guys and the pretty girls would sign them. Oh, how I wanted one. That would prove I was a tough guy. But it was not meant to be.
Today I am sporting a new scar. I have a nice scab on my lower lip. I thought people would see it and ask about the fight I surely must have gotten into. I would give them a smirk and a pause and say glibly, “you should see the other guy.” But no, no one asked that. What they did say was “did your wife beat you up?” Kind of a deflating comment, that. Makes telling the real story even worse. I was boiling ziti and was going to taste it to see if it was done. Since ziti is a tube pasta, it holds water. Scalding hot water. This water squirted onto my lip and burned me. Not very tough, I know. But at least I didn’t cry.
Ok, maybe I’m not the toughest tough guy and I’ll never be an action movie hero, but I still have scars. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?