She had her 6-year-old daughter by the forearm. Tugged on her in the produce section, then hurriedly pulled her into a vacant aisle. Like an eagle—-even with piercing eagle eyes—-her talons clenched onto that arm as if she were truly preparing to take flight. As if she were willing to do whatever it would take to bust through the ceiling of the grocery store, then upward, exploding through the roof, breaking into daylight, and taking her prey far, far away.
“Stop acting like a child!!” She snapped at her as discretely as possible, while restraining her voice. “Stop touching everything you see!! Can’t you just act normal!?”
And that was it. That was where the beratement ended, just before those talons clenched her arm one last time to leave a final impression of the mother’s anger.
I watched the entire scene. I wanted to intervene, but kept my distance. Probably because I hadn’t witnessed the daughter’s supposed unruly behavior that warranted such a stern scolding. On the other hand, the mother might have been the type of person who was upset by the slightest infraction. Maybe her daughter had simply picked up an orange to innocently study its texture. Perhaps, before they entered the store, something had happened causing the mother to lose her last bit of patience. I hadn’t a clue of the scene’s history, so I stayed quiet.
* * *
A week later at the store, I met a man in the checkout line whose hand was badly scarred. He’d obviously had reconstructive surgery. The scene I had witnessed between the mother and daughter had stayed with me. When I saw his hand, I began to think about the mother’s fierce grip on her daughter, and wondered if her talons might have pierced her skin—deep enough to make a scar. I thought about how our lives are full of scars. Some are physically visible, while others have penetrated deep within our memories and will remain there until we die. And some scars have pasts that, over time, have clouded and become hard to recall, their details muted.
But there was something about the man that compelled my curiosity. It was one of those feelings where things just felt safe. Perhaps I’ve trained myself to feel comfortable asking people about things that others might deem as intrusive or stepping over their boundaries. But I don’t see it that way. I simply go with my gut. I go with my radar of reading people’s character. It’s something I’ve done all my adult life, and, honestly, sometimes I can get that read in just a matter of seconds. Such as the man in line with me. Unlike the angry mother, he had a kind expression—-he was approachable.
“Excuse me, sir” I said. “But I have a question.”
“Okay,” he replied. “What is it?”
“Your hand…what happened?”
“What happened? Well that, my friend, is a story.”
“I don’t mean to pry. I—“
“It’s quite alright. I’ll be happy to tell you.”
* * *
Whenever there is a threat to our survival, we instinctively use our flight or fight response to protect ourselves…or someone else.
That’s why he defended his grandson during an evening walk. There was no concern that the pit bull might turn on him. He had found himself caught in the line of duty—-a place he couldn’t avoid, He would be cursed forever knowing he had failed to protect. But he was a good man, and the thought that he would opt for self-preservation was utterly absurd.
The pit bull charged at the boy with primal and deadly intent. The dog’s chain leash slapped at the concrete sidewalk and whipped itself in the air as it gained speed, having broken free from its owner’s hands. Just seconds from reaching the boy, the grandfather positioned himself between the two, and took the hit with an outstretched arm.
He remembers the pain as being horridly torturous. He recalls his hand being trapped in the dog’s iron jaws, and how it was shredded as it shook its head side to side. And yet, as quickly as it attacked, it suddenly chose to run away. He referred to the dog’s retreat as being part of a divine intervention, that it was more than just happenstance.
“I often wonder,” he said. “If my scars were sort of meant to be. I know this sounds crazy, but I wonder if they’re intended to remind me of just how much I love my grandson. And if it happened again, I’d lose all my fingers if I had to. Anything to protect that boy’s life.”
His grandson will never forget how fortunate he was to be able to walk away without a single tooth mark, completely unscathed. Not one single scar.
As for the 6-year-old girl who was vehemently yelled at by her mother, maybe her day took a turn for the better. Who knows what her mother may have come to realize when she tucked her into bed that night. Who knows the depth of her sorrow that finally bubbled to the surface. This was her only child, and she knew she had frightened her. She knew she had lost her patience and wound up going in a direction she never intended to.
“Sweetie, mommy’s really sorry about what happened at the store today. Please understand that. You’re all I’ve got. I love you.”
“It’s okay, mommy. But my arm does kinda hurt.”
The mother’s eyes welled up as she leaned in and hugged her daughter. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “I must have come across as a monster. I’m so sorry.”
“No, mommy. Monsters only live under my bed. You’re not a monster. You’re my mommy.”
The mother lifted her head up with tear-filled eyes and a smile, and then tenderly kissed her daughter on the forehead. And that’s when the scars began to fade away, as the mother stayed in her room and slept with her through the night.
Copyright Ros Hill 2018