Every now and then, my father would cut and hammer, move the wrong way and wedge a splinter into his skin. He’d march into our tiny kitchen and announce, “I done messed around and got somethin’ in my finger again.” He’d stare at the wound with great confusion, as if he had no idea what material was inside. Our family gears would kick on and turn: my mother would retrieve a sewing needle and I would grab the hydrogen peroxide. The kitchen table became an operating room and I, the surgeon.
Sometimes the splinters were completely superficial, requiring a light and gentle tug of the tweezers. Other times the splinters were buried in the pad of his thumb, leaving only a tunnel as hint of its location. These wounds were my least favorite, requiring pushing, squeezing, and twisting of the digit until the head of the splinter appeared. “C’mon now – I aint got all day! Just mash it!” my father would joke, sensing my fear of hurting him, and therefore easing my nervousness during the lengthy manipulation.
My favorite of splinters were those wedged between the nail and cuticle – the most sensitive of places for a wound – always requiring dissection and extraction. With each drag of my mother’s cigarette, I shifted thin pieces of tissue with her sewing needle. The small piece of wood or metal taunted me with each dig, but I worked on, assuring my father, “I think I’ve about got it.”
“You do what you need to do,” he’d reply. “You aint gonna hurt me.” He remained still and stoic throughout our operations – never flinching or wailing when the surgical work was extensive.
After a deep breath, I continued my work – extracting the splinter, disinfecting and bandaging the wound. “Till next time,” my mother would announce as she collected our mess. My father would head back outside. “Thanks, doc,” he’d grin.
What a surgeon I was – beginning my residency at age seven – and my, what a great patient he always was.
C. Cimmone is an author and editor from Texas.