Columns

2002.11.20 It's a dog's life

on . Posted in Midnight Musings

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Conversations always wander at my house. We might start out talking about hip hugger pants and pretty soon we’re talking about gross stuff like cutting unnamed items out of Sam’s fur.

Who is Sam, you ask? OK, so maybe you’re not asking, but I’ll tell you anyway. Sam was my husband’s ill-treated dog. David says he actually belonged to his sister, Diane, but he and his brothers played with (some might say tortured) Sam quite a bit. One day, Sam had enough and took off for Spain. That’s the legend anyway.

I was trying to cut the stems off a bunch of cilantro and was meeting with great resistance from the scissors I grabbed out of the pencil jar.

“I need a good pair of kitchen scissors,” I complained.

“What would they look like?” my husband asked.

I had to tread carefully here. I didn’t want David to think I was dropping hints for Christmas presents.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’d know them if I saw them.”

“When I was a kid, we’d use regular scissors whenever something needed to be cut,” he said.

“Like what?”

“Pizza.”

I found this hard to believe. “Like what most people would use a pizza cutter for?”

“Most people didn’t have a pizza cutter in the 1960s. Pizza was a new thing.”

And that got him thinking about another new thing: tying up pizza boxes.

“People were probably tying pizza boxes with string in the Bronx for decades, but it was a new thing in Morenci.”

And then he’s back to the scissors—and making me cringe. Those same scissors he used for cutting pizza, he used on Sam.

“Sometimes we had to cut stuff out of Sam’s fur. He was a dog of the world; he used to come back from his excursions with stuff in his fur.”

This pleasant Saturday night conversation was a far cry from our exchange the next day, although it did feature another trip into the past for David.

We started off OK, but pretty soon I was beginning to feel a lot like Sam.

David was trimming branches from the crabapple tree in front of the house and I was holding the ladder. When I looked up to assess the situation, sawdust dropped in my right eye. I birthed three babies without a drop of anesthesia, have banged and bruised and burned myself undertaking various household chores—without major complaints, endured torn ligaments and sprained ankles, but I am a real wimp when it comes to eye pain. I just can’t tolerate it. I can’t even stand a finger coming close to my eye. 

And this little bit of sawdust sends me into a tizzy. Every blink of my eye causes pain and great irritation.

David offers a variety of suggestions, but I just want to rip my eye out. A pair of good kitchen scissors might do the job.

“What you need is to rest your head in Gertie’s lap and put warm water and boric acid in it.”

Boric acid? It sounds barbaric, like cutting pizza with Sam’s scissors, but luckily we don’t have any boric acid. I settle for the warm water and join “Gertie” on the couch. Gertie, apparently is a babysitter from his childhood.

“Gertie will help you. C’mon, open up, let Gertie help you,” he coos.

As his hand approaches holding a cotton ball soaked in water, my legs start flapping and churning as if I’m pedaling backwards on a bicycle. I can’t bear to lie there. I let out sounds of distress. It must be an infantile reflex, a throwback to my baby days. Have you ever noticed how babies kick their legs when they’re crying or distressed or excited? That all-body reaction: that’s where I’m at.

He decides he needs a whole bowl of what he says is warm water, but it’s really quite cool. He proceeds to drip it into my eye but it runs down into my ear.

“Ughhhhh!” I yell, “Is that what Gertie did? Soak your ear with cold water so you don’t notice the pain in you eye?”

He has another idea.

“You need to do what the Boy Scouts do,” he says, and then demonstrates the technique by pulling his top eyelid out over his bottom one. My legs start flapping again. It’s not even my eye but I simply can’t tolerate it.

I can’t get a grip on my eyelid, can’t make myself do it.

“You just don’t want to get better,” he accuses me. “You’re just a coward. Gertie doesn’t help cowards,” and off he goes to bed.

I spend several more hours in agony, but am instantly cured the next day by the man of my dreams, Dr. Shultz, who dropped yellow anesthetic in my eye, flipped my eyelid inside out and nabbed the tiny bit of wood.

“Did they use a needle to numb your eye?” my son Ben asked on email after I wrote him about my escapade.

And David wrote back, “They used a rock to numb her skull.”

Maybe I ought to go join Sam in Spain.

    – Nov. 20, 2002 

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