When I was young, my granddad J.T. would often tell me he wanted me to grow up to be a nurse. “So you can take care of me when I’m old,” he would say. A World War II veteran, he had health problems most of his life, and even as a small child I knew that he was only going to require more and more care. Among his health issues was diabetes, and he would sometimes show my sister and I how he tested his blood sugar with a special machine that pricked his finger. It horrified me. But I adored this kind and wonderful man and so each time he asked me if I was going to grow up to be a nurse, I would nod my head ‘yes’, gulp down my revulsion and smile. “No way,” I was secretly thinking.
Turns out, my instincts were right. I would make a horrible nurse (sorry J.T.) as was illustrated tonight when I out-screamed my son, who stood screaming (and bleeding) in the shower after he cut himself on a razor. My son Henry is quite precocious, and apparently completely clueless about why or how one uses a razor. It never occurred to me to explain shaving to a five-year old. We’ve gone over matches, electrical outlets, scissors…but I guess somehow I missed razors.
I found him covered in shaving cream (his apparent plan had been to shave his entire body), screaming and holding up his hand, which was streaming with blood. My first reaction was not to put pressure on the wound, or even to comfort my child. No, I am ashamed to say that my first reaction was to stand there and scream back. And then, after a few seconds of regular screaming, I began to scream for John.
Hemingway’s Henry would have been in trouble indeed, if I had been his Catherine Barkley. Luckily there was no real damage in this case–just a bit of skin off the thumb, which John was able to patch up nicely. And because my Henry is also the forgiving type, there was no love lost, either.