My grandfather was a pirate who hailed from the exotic Island of Staten. This is what I believed when I was a small child. In actuality, he was just a man who lived on Staten Island, New York. I thought he was a pirate because he had only one hand, but he never wore a hook or a technicolor parrot. To a child, a person missing a limb is certainly the subject of great lore, a character from a fantastical story like The Goonies. I actually wish my grandfather had been cast in the Goonies instead of Sloth because he really alarmed me and put me off Baby Ruths for life. There was quite a tale behind the loss of my grandfather’s hand. In the 1920s, a little Irish boy happened across a hand grenade that had been dropped by a soldier who had returned from war to march through his hometown in a glory and confetti filled ticker tape parade. The hand grenade was a live one and when my grandfather pulled the pin, gone was his hand forever.
My grandfather has been on my mind because I lost my own hand this week. Truthfully, it’s still attached but it’s as lame as an evening clutch. It’s just ornamental and doesn’t hold anything other than chapstick. I went to Boston with the kids this week to enjoy what is left of fall and to get that city dose people who love cities need to nudge them awake. G was working from his Boston office, meaning hotel and parking were ‘on the house.’ After a dinner in the North End, which prompted exactly three patrons to remark, “Wow, we leave our kids at home with a babysitter,” (Thank you, jackasses, are you offering to babysit?), we went back to the hotel where we had big plans to watch Eclipse. G and I are reluctant Twilight fans, won over after I read the series aloud to him during our daughter’s stint in the NICU. It was a dark time filled with agonizing over the welfare of a newborn who had an infection that baffled the medical staff. Twilight was our escape into someone else’s eery portal, and it allowed E to hear my voice during those long days she was trapped in an incubator. I now wonder if early auditory overload of my voice is why she smacks and spits at me today. She’ll know what to expect when I give her to a coven of vampires if she doesn’t shape up. Or werewolves. Doesn’t matter.
We managed to lasso and duct tape a sitter to our kids so that we could see the first two installments in the theater, but Eclipse premiered during the bleakest move in history, referred to by those who know me as the La Quinta Days. And now that we’re in a small town in Maine, movies like ET and Back To The Future have yet to arrive. The ringleader of the Trench Coat Mafia who worked at the video store lost his life to my icy glare when he told me Eclipse wouldn’t be in until after Christmas. Needless to say, I was more than excited to pay $900 to watch Eclipse on hotel pay-per-view. What I didn’t know was that I’d have to forsake a limb as well. When asked if you’d be willing to stake your unborn child on a bet, just make sure you don’t have to lop off a limb, as well. You’ll forget about the child, but you’ll be reminded every day of the arm you wagered away.
I was eager to get the kids bathed and sent to bed so that we could start our cinematic escape. I should have known that I was dealing with my kids who would never settle so their parents could enjoy a movie. I should have realized that E would spend the first half the movie jumping on the bed, screaming, “Monkey,” while D would ask repeatedly “why he isn’t a vampire.” In my haste to see them comatose, I slammed the bathroom door, ordering a ceasefire to toilet bowl fishing and blow dryer blowing. The door made a sickening noise as it closed and violently returned to its open position. The reason: My thumb was in the inner door jam. People, I tore my ACL in high school. I broke my foot doing an Irish jig. I gave birth to a 9 pound baby. I had an episiotomy that left my nethers looking like Frankenstein’s jowls. None of these encounters with pain approached the fire consuming my hand at that moment. The bruising underneath my thumb nail was already a brilliant purple by the time I removed it from the jaws of doorway death. I screamed and made guttural noises only heard from aboriginal medicine men found deep in South American rain forests or students forced to take Organic Chemistry.
G responded much the way he did when I went into labor the first time – aimless zigzagging and arm flailing while searching for food or drink and asking me to tell him what to do. I was still in the breathless stage of pain, where your voice is available only to croak and repeat one phrase, like “My shit life” over and over again. Finally it occurred to him, after downing the rest of his stiff drink like he was the one in need of an amputation, that he should fetch ice. He ran out of the hotel room, drink in hand, in search of the ice machine. I could hear him stalking the hallways and yelling to no one, “Does anyone know where the ice machine is?” I think he might have stopped off for another drink at the bar, too. He returned short of breath with ice in his now empty drink glass. I took stock of him and noticed he was wearing only boxer briefs and a wife beater tank. He understood my wordless appraisal of his appearance and said, “Yes, everyone on this floor thinks I battered my wife. You’re crying from the room while I’m running the hallways in this getup with a drink, looking for ice to stop your swelling.”
Even gratuitous shirtless scenes from everyone’s favorite vampire and werewolf couldn’t stop me from muttering at one point, “I’d kill everyone in this room for an Ibuprofen.”
It was obvious from the nervous glances from the neighboring guests the following morning that we were the domestic violence poster couple. While they searched my face for telltale bruises, I dragged my limp hand to breakfast. While I bemoaned that I’d never dance again, or be able to juggle swords, or text message as quickly, G rolled his eyes and reminded me that he’s the one blacklisted from this hotel, never welcome to return, once security runs the surveillance tape of a half-naked man screaming in the hallways while holding a Jack and Coke. As I stared at my purple thumb ready to burst within its stretched casing, I remembered that the only thing my grandfather couldn’t do with his one hand was cut his own steak. And I’m a vegetarian. I will dance again! I will juggle swords! And I will definitely text message with with a speed greater than that of my mother’s! And if G can never return to the Long Wharf Marriott, well, we’ll soldier on alone while he stays in a perfectly adequate motel nearby.
(Is your mate good in a crisis?)