Sunday, January 06, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #313
Nancy White Kelly

Many flips of the calendar page have transpired since I last burned myself. A couple of years ago, in a busy kitchen, I hastily grabbed the handle of a hot cast iron skillet and dropped it even faster.

At this stage of life, I should remember that fire and resulting heat has the capacity to cook human flesh. I wasn’t thinking that day about life lessons.

It was a cool, but soggy Saturday morning. The clock said ten o’clock and I was hustling to get across the driveway to the coin shop that adjoins our home. My arms were fully loaded with a laptop, keys, briefcase, dangling cords and a piping hot cup of apple cider.

Buddy would have held the door open if he were around. My mind asked rhetorically, “Where is that husband of mine when I need him?”

Frustrated, I kicked the bottom of the screen door and moved forward full-force. The door didn’t budge. The wooden screen door frame was swollen from the moisture in the air. It didn’t budge. As the steaming cider spilled onto my hand, I briefly recalled the words of Newton, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

My normal reaction to extreme heat would be to turn loose of everything I am holding. But, having dropped an almost new lap top a year earlier, my financial instinct prevailed. I held onto the expensive computer and allowed the blistering cider to saturate my left hand. The middle three fingers were essentially boiled.

Once inside the coin shop, I repeatedly headed to the restroom and doused my fingers under the cold faucet water. The pain temporarily abated while the water ran over my hand, but returned when I walked away. It was an odd experience to hope no buyers or sellers of coins would come that day. It would be hard to concentrate on calculating the price of even the smallest cache of silver change. What if a customer wanted to inspect some of the items in the showcase? It is hard to be civil, much less pleasant at such times. Pain has an unrelenting way of commanding attention.

In desperation, I tried a few drops of the morphine I occasionally take for the bone cancer. Even it failed to bring relief. For three tough hours I could think of little else other than those three swelling fingers.

Fifteen out-of-town relatives were coming for the holidays. There were presents still to be wrapped and onions to be chopped. I didn’t need this torment.

The pain eventually subsided and I had a new appreciation of life without intense pain. My burn was so minor compared to those sustained by folks in the burn unit of Grady Hospital or our American soldiers recuperating from roadside bombs blasts. I felt like such a wimp.

Often life lessons need to be repeated. I hope I can remember these three: Fire burns. Life hurts sometimes. The sun always shines…even after the longest day and darkest night.

PS: The Journal of the Living Lady has appeared spasmodically recently due to newspaper transitions.

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