One morning, as I was sitting and having coffee with my neighbor, in the Man Cave, we began sharing stories of our most embarrassing or funny life memories.
My neighbor, “Old Man” shared a story, about himself, when he was in his early twenties, and then reminded me of one of my more embarrassing incidents, the time with “The rake.”
It was early spring 2007 and I was working in my yard in one of my flowerbeds. At that time I was recovering from lower back surgery, but had been released, by the surgeon, to do some light yard work.
My son, Daniel, had helped me, prior to surgery, to build a flowerbed. He had completed the bulk of the work, but I had asked him to leave me two specific chores: raking up the old plant debris and planting the new wildflower seeds.
Once my children left for school I began my work in the flowerbed. Everything was going well, and I was enjoying the beautiful spring weather, but by the end, my pain level spiked and I knew I needed to stop. All I had left was to pick up the rake.
Since I was in pain, instead of bending over I decided to step on the head of the rake and catch the handle as it came up. After all, I have cat like reflexes.
Now, how many of you have ever taken so much Oxycodone that you lost your ability to make good common sense decisions?
Well, that is what happened to me.
In any case, I stepped on the head of the rake. The rake handle was coming at me in real time, but my reaction time was more like an NFL replay moment.
Much to my surprise I did not catch the handle, as it came up. Instead the handle hit me right in the middleof my forehead and on the side of my nose.
I took a step back and cleared my eyes. I was tearing up. I stood there muttering a few four-letter descriptive words and then made the brilliant Oxycodone decision that I needed to be faster.
I stepped on the head of the rake again, this time a little harder. Once more, I was hit in the same area of my forehead, and nose. There was no tears, just blood from the broken skin on my forehead, and of course a bloody nose. I was not sure if I was seeing stars, or what I was seeing, all I knew was that my vision was impaired.
I was no longer muttering. A full verbal assault commenced on the rake. I must have had the beginnings of a concussion. What made me think yelling at an inanimate object would cause it to stop hitting me?
Not that I learned with the first two hits, for a third time I went to step on the head of the rake. Because I was angry, and feeling the effects of my medication, I didn’t just step, I stomped on the head of the rake.
The handle came up so fast, it was like I had hit fast forward with the handle, but was still in replay mode with my hand. I was hit in the same area of my face though much harder this time.
I dropped to my knees, felt the blood running down my nose and face, and felt my nose swell up. I was light headed and ended up sitting on the ground until I was able to stand up. Looking back, I think I blacked out for a few seconds.
As I was sitting there, trying to clear the stars from my eyes, I saw movement out of the corner of my left eye. There stood Old Man in his yard. He had been watching me work. He knew I had just had surgery and he was concerned for my safety. In any case, I acted as if I did not see him.
As I stood up I heard him yell,
“You okay kid?”
I sarcastically responded with,
“I am fine, I just need a Band-Aid, ice bag, and maybe a little less pain medication.”
I stood up grabbed the handle of the rake and dragged it to the garage. I opened the garage door and gave the rake a toss. All the while muttering under my breath, “I should have done that five minutes ago. It might have saved me a possible concussion and a broken nose.”
I went into the house and bandaged my forehead. In those days my first aid kit consisted of gauze, duck tape and a tube of triple antibiotic ointment. I have found tearing the duck tape in small strips works quite effectively for a butterfly bandage.
That afternoon when my children came home from school, my son opened the front door, looked at me, looked at the duck tape and swollen nose, took a deep breath, grinned and asked,
“What were you doing, and what did you hit yourself with this time? Were you taking your pain medication?”
“I was working in the flowerbed, it was the handle of the rake, and yes I was taking my medication.”
“Got it mom, I understand.”
As he walked away he was chuckling and shaking his head in disbelief. He said something to me, while his back was turned, but to this day I have no idea what he said. Because of the pain medication, not only was my judgement impaired, but my ears were ringing as well. It was like having a Lear Jet hovering in my ear canals.
As Old Man and I were sitting in the man cave that morning talking about the rake incident and the sight of me with the strips of duck tape on my forehead, we both laughed.
He looked at me and said,
“It’s good to see you laugh at yourself kid. Laughing at ourselves keeps us humble. Laughter takes the pain in life away.”
I knew his was right. Because of his cancer he was enduring significant physical pain, yet he always seemed to have a joke, a funny memory and a smile on his face. He taught me an important life lesson that day, and used only a few words. He taught me with his example. Old Man is no longer with us, but I like to think his spirit still is.
A couple of days ago I was using the rake to rake up some leaves around our oak tree. For a split second I thought about stepping on the head of the rake and catching the handle as it came up.
I didn’t do it though.
Instead I bent over and picked up the rake. As I stood up the wind began to swirl around me, churning my pile of leaves, and I could have sworn that I heard him laughing.