Friday, December 2, 2011

this is going to hurt

When I was nine or ten I got hit in the mouth by a baseball bat. It was an inadvertent strike. My friend Gregory and I were playing on a grassy area near our apartment building. As I recall we were near one of the several signs in the neighborhood that read, "No ballplaying of any kind." Scofflaws in training, I guess, though in the neighborhood it seemed that we were not alone. I recall that a number of years later I played football on a lawn and we, without really thinking much about it, used a similar forbidding sign as the touchdown goal marker.

I cannot remember now how exactly Gregory hit me in the mouth with the bat. It was certainly inadvertent. We might have been picking up the bats after our game and he accidentally swung a bat around or it could have been during a game when I was catching and caught the back of the bat as he finished his swing. It doesn't matter. I just knew I had been hit. I can't even remember now much bleeding if any. But I did not think it would go away.

My folks took me to the doctor who, and who knows if my memory is playing tricks on me now, always seemed to be there no matter when we showed up. I actually had two doctors like this. My pediatrician was a woman named Dr. Lipsett, and the family doctor was named Shapiro. I can vaguely remember Dr. Lipsett, but I can see Dr. Shapiro as if he was sitting on the nearby chair here where, currently, my cat Pumpkin now seems to be extraordinarily comfortable.

Dr. Shapiro was a heavy guy with a double chin who seemed jovial nearly every time I was there. We might have to wait a stretch to see him, but whenever we got to the doctors, eventually, he would see me.

So, Dr. Shapiro takes a look at my kisser and shakes his head a couple of times. Then he takes out something from his arsenal and tells me he is going to put it on the area where I'd been clocked. Then he tells me something that he rarely had told me previously, "This" he said "is going to hurt".

Well, I dont remember thinking much of this warning. I had been to doctors before and before a shot had been told that something was going to hurt. But often this warning came with a laugh as if to indicate that it was a right of passage and I would be fine. This time there was none of that. Nevertheless, I was not particularly concerned. He put the stuff on me.

It hurt like hell. I can remember it to this day. He was not bluffing. Whatever it was, when it connected with my bruised mouth I hit the roof. Eventually, of course both the pain and any vestiges of Gregory's bat left, but the pain was pretty good. I wrote in these blogs about a toothache I had recently that was off the charts painful. This was not in that category, but certainly it is memorable.

The thing is that throughout my life when something ominous was about to happen I have tended to downplay the pain that was upcoming. Emotional or physical. I figure something is going to hurt some and often am way off the mark in terms of the sum of the some. How bad can it be is a good attitude to take, but it is worth recognizing that sometimes the depths of pain can be beyond the capacity to conceptualize until we experience it.

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