As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my parents loved to travel – often heading to exotic locals on scuba diving adventures, taking medical related trips (dad was a doctor), or just seeing the land based sites in new and beautiful places. When I was between the ages of 12-18-years-old, it seemed to me that my parents were gone nearly as often as they were home. Although that perception was clearly an exaggeration of my adolescent mind, my folks did travel more often than anyone else I knew – and when they did, they would arrange for someone (usually a young married couple) to live-in at the house to provide care for me and my siblings.
I’m not clear how my parents found these caregivers – I seem to remember they were either university students or Mormons (or maybe both). While I don’t remember much about their husbands, a few of the wives (hey, Carla and Karen!) made a very good impression with me, as they were young and relatively cool, and would talk to me about boys, kissing, and tampons (somehow it was a lot more comfortable talking to them about these things rather than my mother).
However, some of these caregivers were not as dedicated to their tasks. Since my sister and I were in our early teens, sometimes the caregivers would take an afternoon off, leaving us to babysit our younger siblings while they enjoyed some free time.
On one such occasion, while the paid caregivers went to a university football game, my older sister and I were tending our younger brother. He was probably 3-years-old at the time, and we would have been about 14 and 12-years-old, respectively. We were in my parent’s bedroom watching television with him (it was the only television in the dream house at the time). He soon became bored, as toddlers do, and in an effort to keep him entertained, we started a game of “Bullfight.” Bullfight was a pretty innocuous game – basically, there was a bull (in this case, my brother) and a matador (my sister). I ended up in the role of demonstrator – and my job was to show my brother how to be a ferocious bull.
The matador brandished a towel in front of me and I used my forefingers to make curved horns on my forehead (go ahead, try it – I know you’re itching to do it). I encouraged my brother to mimic me as I stamped my feet and tossed my head – then I showed him how to bellow, lowering my head as I charged forward at the dangling towel, which my sister quickly snatched away as she hollered, “Toro!” My brother thought this was hilarious and soon we had him charging at the towel himself – a tiny enraged bull on a mission of destruction (although the frequent giggling kind of detracted from that image).
Little bull became so enthusiastic about the game that, on the last pass, he leaned so far forward that he threw his center of gravity off and, as he passed under the towel, he pitched headlong into the window. Luckily, he hit the window sill and didn’t go THROUGH the second story window. Unluckily, he hit the window sill, and his forehead split wide open and blood started pouring from the cut.
Have you ever seen a head wound? The smallest scratch seems to produce gallons of blood – and this wasn’t a tiny scratch. My sister grabbed my brother and, using the former matador cape, attempted to stop the bleeding and the screaming (not that she wrapped the towel around his mouth to stop the screaming…she wouldn’t do anything like that, usually). She rocked him and the started screaming herself, yelling at me to pick up the phone and call for help.
I froze. It wasn’t my finest hour – but give me a break, I was only twelve. The number for the hospital (which I had called often in the past, as my dad worked there), went straight out of my head. I was like a deer in headlights (hmmm…in this story “a bull in the spotlight” might be a better analogy). I finally picked up the phone and attempted to punch in some numbers, hoping that the phone number would come back to me, but nothing happened. I must have looked at my sister with panic in my eyes, because she screamed out the number at me and soon the hospital operator answered. I don’t remember exactly what I said – I know I was babbling in a terrified manner, and I must have said my name or my dad’s name – because the next thing I know I had been transferred to radiology (where my father would have been had he been in town). My dad’s partner picked up the line and somehow was able to understand what I was trying to say. He asked if my brother was conscious (apparently, he could not tell that the ear-piercing screaming was coming from said toddler). He also asked me to look at the wound to see if it was still bleeding…and that was a huge, huge mistake.
My sister pulled the towel away from my brother’s head. The bleeding had slowed down, which allowed me to see the laceration clearly – and I saw BRAINS – cream colored, slightly bumpy BRAINS inside of the gash! I may have joined in on the screaming at that point and all I remember is my dad’s partner telling me he was on his way. Within 5-10 minutes, he was at the front door and assessed the damage before bundling us into his car and taking us back to the hospital.
It turns out it wasn’t brains at all I had seen oozing from my brother’s head. It was merely fatty tissue that had been exposed by the cut. That was a relief! My brother, who must have had a whopping headache and was tuckered out from the ordeal, was still whimpering by the time they shot him up with lidocaine and started stitching him back together. I remember holding his little hand and crying myself at that point, partly because I felt so bad for him, but mostly because the situation had been so damned SCARY and I was grateful it was nearly over.
I don’t have any clear memories of the aftermath when the caregivers came home from the ballgame. One hopes that they were incredibly freaked out to find the master bedroom drenched with blood and their charges wounded and traumatized. I also don’t remember what my parent’s reactions were when they came home and found out what had happened – but I do know that we never saw those particular caregivers ever again. And the game of Bullfight? I don’t think it was ever played in the dream house again (at least, not by me!)