Monday, October 15, 2012

For Life

I’ll never forget the time I saw my dad lose it with my older brother.  I don’t remember the exact transgression, but the vision of my dad yelling obscenities at my brother while chasing him around our backyard pool with a shoe is forever burned into my brain.

It scarred me for life. 

What also scarred me for life is an early memory of my grandfather removing me from the family dinner table because I was acting disrespectful and he had had enough of my brattiness.

I remember being scarred for life when I got the tip of my thumb cut off while my brother and I were playing let’s-put-this-jump-rope-through-the-hinges-of-the-door-and-then-slam-it-to-see-if-it-cuts-the-rope-in-two.  I remember crying, a lot of blood, the dog running around, and my mom covering the wound with a washcloth.

I don’t remember the dog eating the tip of my thumb, even though it is a hilarious joke in my family.

To everyone else.  I am sure this did not happen.

Being scarred for life is a dramatic description of life events that we never forget.  Usually minor traumas which turn into learning experiences, we chuckle when we regale our friends with the tales and reminisce with our family members about these mishaps and how our lives were shaped by them.

When we are scarred for life, the memory is one that others may share, but it is only our perception that really matters.  Often, what has scarred me for life is unremembered by the people who joined me in the experience.  My memories are simply mine, and what I learned from them shapes my life.

As a parent I have found that any memory can scar a child for life.  It doesn’t even have to be traumatic.  My kids are scarred for life by overzealous garage saling that I carried out early and often in their lives.  They recall their possessions being sold to strangers for change.  They remember seeing a favorite stuffed lion being sold at a garage sale customer’s swap meet booth a few weeks later.

My son was scarred for life one year in school when one of his classmates seemed to attract ants.  To her face.

My daughter is forever scarred by an apple danish that she enthusiastically bit into, thinking it was a donut.

As a result my children mentally catalog each item they own.  My son has the worst kind of insect phobia, and my daughter eschews any and all warm apple products.  These things probably won’t change.  I am certain that they will grow up to be weird bug phobes and fruit abstainers who are also unapologetic hoarders.

The thing about being scarred for life is that you can’t protect yourself or your children from it.  Something will happen in our lives to gross us out, turn us off, or scare us so much that we will avoid repeating those events at all costs.  Being scarred changes us forever.

As a result, I always get a little radical if children slam doors when they play.  Or if there are dogs around at any time.  I’m sure that they will lap up any body parts that may accidentally fly off.

Even though that probably didn’t happen in my case.  A dog definitely did not eat my thumb.  The idea scars me for life.



  1. Haha it's weird how those things happen...little meaningless events end up having a big effect

  2. So true. It is impossible to judge with any real accuracy what one person sees as traumatic or major and another sees as inconsequential. The idea that perception is reality is a heavy one. It doesn't matter what really happened; what we believe is true...IS true. And nothing any one else says or perceives will change that. It is humbling to think how any one event - real or imagined, large or small - can affect us through the rest of our lives.

    1. It's the subject of many psychological studies, of which I used to be an expert. Not really, but yeah. Perception is individual truth, which I believe can also be seen in any political divide.