Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Excised Heritage

A shift in another direction to what I hope will be a starting point to pull all my family stories together. My youngest son Sam and his recent experience was a catalyst in trying to find out more about my father's ancestors who had eluded me for so long.

       The Novocain had worn off in less than 10 minutes. Sam was beginning to feel every pull and slice of his skin being excised from behind his ear.  Less than 15 minutes before, his first sight was the syringe when he walked into the examining room. Well, I guess this is going to hurt, he said to himself.  The nurse was smiling as if this was an ordinary day, but to Sam, he was about to experience pain that he hoped would not have to be repeated. 
      Earlier the nursing attendant with short spiked hair and gapping teeth instructed him to lie flat on his stomach with his head turned to the side on the pillow. A cloth was placed over his head, and he was shrouded in a blue darkness unable to see what was taking place.  The small hole in the face cloth exposed his ear and every sound seemed to multiply tenfold.  He heard the door close with little more than a mumble from the attendant as she left the room. He was alone.
      He heard  the door open a few minutes later, but he was sure it had been a half an hour. The doctor’s soothing voice of mundane conversation starters did little to relax him, but he played along, answering the irrelevant questions. "So what do you do, Sam? I hear your Dad broke his ankle, just like I did. When are you getting married now? How about that new Broncos Quarterback.?  Do you think he has the right stuff?"
      The clattering on the surgical tray left little to the imagination and then the doctor said, you may feel a little prick but it won’t last long. Little does he know, Sam thought.  A little prick?  He had known a lot of those.  He had really hoped that this time the stupor would take hold, and this great numbing drug would work on him.  The syringe’s needle pierced  his earlobe, not unlike the initial piercing he had done many years before, but this time he could hear the liquid swishing around inside his earlobe as the cold burn entered his head with an evil rush under his skin.  Whatever it was that contradicted the expected reaction in his body, he was resistant to its power.  Novocain was useless after less than the time it took for the doctor to pick up his scalpel.  Sam’s hoping was useless, too.  Even though he didn’t feel this first slice under the keloid scar, the awakening nerve endings started to feel the exposure to the air, and they flashed instant messages to his brain that the violation to their existence was threatened. The throbbing continued as the scalpel was charting its course though the fleshy mass that had grown behind his ear to double the size of the lobe.
       Last year he had decided he could just whack it off himself as it just hung by a small flap of skin. It couldn’t be worse that the piercing itself. After numbing his earlobe with two cubes of ice, he snipped at the attached appendage, and it had easily fallen off. The bleeding was more excessive than any head wound he had ever seen, but with a pressure  bandage applied by Chrissy, it eventually stopped. No big deal and easily forgotten, until two months later, the tiny scar became a welt overnight and within 6 months, the fleshy lobe had morphed into a lump twice the original size of the one he thought he had killed. It looked like a cancerous tumor growing outside his body. There were to be no more self-healing chances, he had to see Doc Sims.
     To ward off the pain Sam talked to the doctor about what he was actually doing, trying to mask each stabbing pain but the evidence was accented in the pitch of his voice.
     “Say Doc, what makes these kinds of scars anyway? I’ve got lots of friends with piercing and tats that don’t do this.” Sam felt the suture needle enter one side and the cat-gut thread singing through the needle-made hole, and the needle hitting its mark on the other side of the wound to draw the skin together for its first stitch.
     “How many black friends do you have, Sam?"  
What kind of bigoted question is that, man?  “What’s that got to do with anything, Doc? The second suture began in making the second stitch.
     “Keloids are predominately an African-American syndrome.  After an initial trauma to the subdural layer of skin, as the body tries to heal itself, it seems to take on a super healing process and grows the scar faster and larger than necessary. “  Needle, screeching thread, tie off number three.
     Sam blinked back the pain induced tears under the blue shroud. “But why me then?”
    “Sam, America is a pretty good melting pot of all cultures and races. I’m sure there was probably a bit of color mixing all along its history. It’s quite probable that there is some black heritage running through your veins.  Ever talk to your folks about it?  “Dr. Sims finished with the 3rd and 4th stitches.
     "Not really, but it sure seems unlikely on my dad’s side. I’ve heard every cowboy, Irish, outlaw story at least a dozen times over.  But my mom has always been pretty quiet about her family. Both her parents died in their 50’s and she and dad had moved to Wyoming . I really only hear a little bit about her folks."
     Five more agonizing stitches later, Sam shook hands with the doctor and headed for home.  He tried to mask the pain from his throbbing earlobe by jacking up the rap on the radio to a deafening pitch.  All that did was to let the pain throb to the music as he tried to take in the information the doctor had just told him. Next stop, Mom's house.


  1. Oh, Good Heavens! Your boy. Ancestry is interesting stuff. All my life I was told that I am Scottish, maybe a little English on one side. The other side, proudly Alsacian. When I began my ancestry work, I found Irish in the Scottish side and more than a bit. The family was ashamed and never wanted to acknowledge it. I was thrilled. I grew up thinking the Irish Catholic kids had all the fun. On the Alsacian side, there was more than enough German and Prussian. So, how come I'm not more orderly? I'm not surprised at anything. All of your kids sound great and I know you would think so, even if they had purple polka dots and green keloids. Being a mom can be interesting work, eh? I must say though that I've been frustrated with the public boards for ancestry work. Some are very inaccurate and it takes time to sort through things and double check. Often, it's the folks with the locked family trees who are more helpful.

  2. I agree about the public boards. I had my fill of frustration when I found the inaccuracies and my patience ran thin. I love the search, but not the precision of required documentation of trying to prove something. I am now satisfied to just imagine that my ancestors' feelings and emotions were very much like mine. Different times and places maybe, but the human-ness is the same. "Rosannah's Dogwood" is my best example. It was my story of wanting to still see the "mark" in the road where my son died. Her story grew from there.
    Your history sounds so fabulous. I hope you continue to enjoy finding new connections.

  3. Ouch. You really made me feel like it was happening to me. What a way with words. I think keloids are also known to appear on people of Asian descent. Looking back always reveals interesting things! In doing ancestry work, I find out fascinating things and most make me smile. I love to be inspired by people who seemed to be of such courage and worked much harder than I will ever work. Makes me try harder...

    1. Yes you are right about the Asian descent. When I was researching keloids, I found a great deal of material on the Japanese after Hiroshima.
      I also gain a great deal of strength finding out how an ancestor survived an issue. If they can go through"that" then I can go through my problems. The very theme I want to write about.

  4. Read this one again - need some chocolate!

  5. Oh yea! The best therapy. Hate,though,to think I drove you to indulge =o)


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