On the Screen Door


I didn’t go to the doctor or hospitals in childhood. I was born at home, into a faith healing sect. Herd immunity was high back then, so being unvaccinated posed little risk and the worst childhood disease I contracted was the chicken pox. But I can remember times I should have gotten care.

I was maybe six years old. My sister, cousin and I were bored. We’d been taking turns on the two swings on our backyard set. One of them got the idea to swing on the screen door to the large attached storage room where we kept the possessions of friends on overseas missionary assignments.

My cousin and sister each took their turns, clinging to the screen door as it swung wide of the steps, feet above the ground. It was my turn. I held the door frame between my arms and pulled my legs up. I started to swing, when the hook from the door latch caught in my forearm. It tore through veins and tissue and I dangled, screaming, from the door until my grandma came out to unhook me.

I can’t imagine not taking my son to the emergency room if he suffered the same injury. Even with my childhood, and my own antivax history, I can’t actually understand my mom in that.

My grandma brought me inside, ran water and rubbing alcohol over my wound before packing it with salt. I was too obedient to cry out as much as I wanted to, but just thinking of it now makes me flinch that arm protectively closer.

And then that was it. No one made sure the muscle was healing right, or that I wouldn’t lose function in my hand. The blood had stopped flowing, now it was time to wash up for dinner.

I can never be as sure as I would like that the family who raised me, my family, loved me.

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