T keeps wanting to hear the stories of our scars. His favorite is “How Dad’s Tooth Turned to Gold.” He also wants to incessantly recount the details of his own injuries. He walked into a closed sliding glass door on Memorial Day (he’s fine) and the narrative has practically become a Homeric epic in the retelling. I can’t tell if it’s the hurt or the healing that fascinates him more.
Last week, I got lost on a hike, wound up on a dead-end trail and had to off-road my way down an embankment. I emerged, covered in burrs, behind a tall fence. I had the little twinge of anxiety that I always get when I have to scale a fence- remembering the time a jagged end of chain link ripped my hand open as a child. I can still recall what I was wearing.
It took me a minute to realize that never happened to me. It happened to my father.
I used to ask him over and over again to tell me how he got the thin white scar that bisected his palm and ran halfway down his forearm. I heard the story so many times it became almost as much a part of my own body as it was his. In my dreams, it was me trying to hold my torn hand together with my blood-soaked t-shirt.
If I think about it for more than a second, I remember that, of course, that scar is my father’s scar. The scars on my forearms are from a different injury entirely. But if the memory comes to me in a floating moment of fear, as I wedge my sneaker into a diamond of chain link and grab for the top to pull myself over, the boundaries can sometimes blur between my body and my father’s body. I can remember the story as if it were my own.
It’s one of my greatest fears that T will somehow absorb the injuries done to my body long before he was ever born. That my hurt will become his, in spite of my best efforts to give him a whole new world. In some ways, I think that the legacy of our parents’ pain is unavoidable.
But I hope that Scott and I can also pass on a legacy of healing. So that at least T will see that when you wind up with a bloody hole where your tooth used to be, you can sometimes replace it with a gold one that glints in the sunlight when you smile.