I am a fretter, one who frets. I don’t know how this happened. I am a bookish softy, but somewhere my genes are the makings of a right tough son-of-a-bitch. I vividly remember my grandfather standing at the screen door of the porch calling for his wife to bring him her sewing kit. He was holding his thumb tightly and close to his chest. From between the fingers, steady tributaries of blood flowed. He patiently waited on the front step because he dare not spill his blood on grandmother’s carpet. Nothing wrong with being house proud, she would say.
The only sense of urgency came in response to grandma’s casual queries as to why ever would he want her sewing kit. He replied, “Damnit woman. Quit your fussing and bring me some thread and a needle.” He embarrassed himself by his impoliteness. He softened his tone to ask me to come outside with him because he was going to need my help.
Grandma was not as composed when she stepped to the screen door. The “oh my god” refrain repeated peppered with phrases like “what have you done now?” and “what happened?”
“I’ll be alright. The boy is going to help.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure. I'm sure.” He turned to me and motioned, “C’mon.” I followed him to the picnic bench where we usually ate watermelon sprinkled with salt and spat the seeds at grandma’s multitude of cats that were constantly milling about the farm.
So far I had followed these events with the uncomprehending stoicism that only children are capable of. This impassivity failed me when grandpa charged me with the duty to hold the torn flesh of his thumb together while he stitched with light blue thread the gash that ran from the tip of the digit to the meat of his palm.
I started to feel cold flushes and grandpa must have noticed the colour leave my face. He buttressed my consciousness by his deep and grumbling voice, “You alright, boy?”
“We’re almost done here.” (We were not. He had not yet sewn a third of the way.)
It took all four of my small fingers of each of my hands on either side of the long cut to match its edges together. His skin was sticky from the drying blood and if I moved my fingers, the cut would open again and provide a fresh dollop of blood.
“Steady now.” Grandpa would say.
Grandma came out with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to wash out the infection.
“Go on.” He nodded to her, pausing his sewing. She poured the clear liquid over our hands as timidly as if the resulting pain would be felt by her instead of her husband. Grandpa registered the pain by closing his eyes tightly for an extended pause.
“Alright. That’ll do. Mama can you get some clean rags or bandages if we got ‘em?”
“Yes dear. Hold on.”
“Let’s get this done before that woman tries to kill me again.” He whispered with a smirk and a mischievous wink. He finished his uneven but sufficient suture and no more notice or mention was given to the injury wrapped in gauze and sealed with a small strip of duct tape.