” You can’t be Captain Kirk,” my neighbor, Rodney age 11 and two years my senior shouted down at me from our fort in my tree. ” You are a girl, … you can be Lieutenant Uhura, she’s a girl.”
The unfairness of the situation caused a very strange reaction in my child self.
After spending most of the morning nailing nails, screwing screws, hauling scraps of plywood up into said tree, to create this version of The U.S.S. Enterprise, doing most of the work because I had possession of the only hammer, this boy was telling me what I could or couldn’t do because I was a girl? Totally unfair.
I started to climb, climb high up into my tree, and I didn’t take my eyes off him as I climbed up, up until at last I was towering above him. I stood up on a branch that gave beneath my weight, and grabbing the branch above gave a show of power that any gorilla would be proud of, complete with a forceful scream of anguish rarely heard in our quiet Phoenix neighborhood in 1971. Then I glared down at him. It was time.
It was time for the words.
The bad words. When I heard the bad words for the first time, it was out of my father’s mouth, screaming it at the building site. Even more powerful than hearing it, was my first- word- reading- self seeing it written across a freshly sheet-rocked wall that didn’t meet my Scottish Builder Fathers Standards…
” What the Fuck is this ?” written across the wall in red construction crayon complete with arrows marking the offensive part of said freshly sheet-rocked wall. It was Big, and Bad, and Powerful.
I needed power, it was time.
” What the fuck is this! I am CAPTAIN KIRK!” I screamed down at Rodney.
Rodney then promptly fell out of the tree, rolled across the grass, where I still glared above him and screamed,
” And its my fucking tree!” Rodney scrambled onto his feet, and ran all the way home.
Rodney had hit upon my own personal version of an Achilles Heel.
I had spent years being introduced to my parents friends in exactly the following manner, for every visitor, every party, every time, much like the Von Trapps of Sound of Music Fame…
My father starts, usually with hands upon the shoulder of whom ever he was introducing,
” First we had a girl, Elaine, …… so we waited a while,”
…. My eldest sister and a gifted dancer and choreographer. But alas a girl.
” we tried again, and had…. another girl, Sharon,”
This would be me, tree climbing always has skinned knees but alas yet another girl.
‘SO we tried again, and had….. another girl, Dawn,” always a laugh at this one. Ha Ha Ha.
A nurse, brilliant, wondrous caretaker, small petite and ultra quiet and total fem fatal, but alas yes poor thing another girl.
“So we tried one more time and, had our son Bill! “,
Always drew applause, like dad single-handedly controled his chromosomes and swimmers, how heroic.
” The we tried one more time,……… had another girl, Michele, …..so we stopped!”
Valiant Michele, hard-working, creative brilliant and loyal, but too bad, she is a girl.
Ha Ha Ha. Total crack up father, thanks for making us feel a little less than.
While the f-word is still bad, my mother-law along with most of polite society blanche when it is uttered, it is unfortunately my favorite, we go back along way together, almost 40 years.
I feel for Hilda having a foul mouth daughter-in-law who uses her favorite word as an adjective, noun and verb. But since arriving here I have other words, other bad words. “Worser” words we used to say as kids, and these, my new bad words strike fear in my heart every waking moment of every day.
The Bad Words, are words so powerful they are not even spoken. Nor are they whispered for fear of breathing them into being, they are …. broken bones.
My day is spent in fear of broken bones.
If Hilda would fall,
If Hilda would fall her cancer riddled bones would break,
If Hilda would fall, her cancer riddled bones would break, and she would be taken to the never never land of a hospital, never to return.
This a fate that is even worse than death, even worse than death itself for the dying, because it means having no power, no control over the where and when and how, of your death.
It is a fear that we do not speak of. Until we did.
I hear them at 3am. They wake me as Griff cannot even hold himself upright without getting dizzy, is trying to extricate Hilda from the hospital bed in the family room, by himself. They do not know how to use the electric controls, they are bickering, loudly. Hilda out weighs him by about 40 pounds, unsteady bedridden and now in need of a toilet, hurts when touched, is directing him not to touch her, ” Careful Griff!” she squeals.
I bounce from a dead sleep and find them mid break-out.
” What do you think you are doing?” I yell.
Yes, I yelled, for you see the broken bones words are there at the back of my throat, trying to claw their way out, trying to be spoken into being.
” I have to go to the bathroom,” Hilda meekly answers.
” We didn’t want to wake you, ” Griff murmurs.
” Why didn’t you ring the bell? Where is the walker? ” I accuse. They have broken THE Cardinal sin. Without the walker Hilda’s legs might break like tooth picks, the bad words, broken bones, are so close.
” I told you guys to wake me up, you are not strong enough” I’m calm now just worried, I feel the bad words in my mouth they will not be stopped.
” What would you do if you fell, and broke a bone?”
Its done, the bad words escaped.
They both hang their heads, they know, need no more chastising.
I lower the bed, raise the back, help Hilda swing her legs to the side of the bed. I get the walker, maneuver it into place, and one-two-three feet flat on the floor arms ready… She is up.
It doesn’t happen until we return from the bathroom. She stands, I move the walker away and in that moment, Hilda throws her arms around Griff’s neck, and he goes off-balance. I turn to see them falling.
Its my fault I let it loose, I uttered the bad words, I caused it to happen.
Fortunately they fall the 18 inches straight backward onto the bed together, unfortunately he is under her.
He squirms free, staggers to the couch where he has set up base camp. Hilda gets liquid morphine for break through pain, and after 20 minutes sleeps.
The next morning I hear her wake before the sun. Upon entering the family room she says to me with a smirk,
” Are you done yelling at me now?”
I don’t answer, there is a new bad word that has taken roost in my mouth.