Susan's Special Club
Legacy Story Prompt: Describe a life-threatening close call that happened to you.
Are you familiar with the cartoonist Gary Larsen? He made one superlatively funny cartoon in which two deer are standing in a forest, one bearing the image of a target/bull’s-eye prominently affixed to his body. The other deer says, “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.” Well, you’d have to belong to my Club to understand, but I’ll tell you straight out that I often feel like Hal.
Mr. Larsen has another masterpiece I can totally identify with – one, in fact, that nearly always makes me downright squeal with laughter every time I see it. This one features a burning brick building with flames shooting out the windows and smoke pouring from the roof. It has become loosened from its foundation and is being swept away by a torrential stream of water heading straight for a cliff. On the side of the building, in large lettering, are the words “CRISIS CLINIC.”
If you want my opinion, it’s really a shame there have to be such things as copyright laws, for the Crisis Clinic cartoon would make a perfect logo for my stationery. It could also serve as a permanent telephone greeting: “Hello; Darbro Crisis Clinic here; Susan speaking. May I have your emergency, please?” Maybe you can relate?
None of us get through life unscathed, but I seem to belong to an exclusive Club whose members major in taking on more than their fair share of trials, tribulations and stress. I rub shoulders with all kinds of people whose lives seem to roll tranquilly along with here and there a little bump perhaps, but for the most part it looks to be all smooth sailing. Members of my Club, on the other hand, seem to sail in a perpetual squall (which often escalates into a typhoon) in rickety little boats, heading straight for Titanic-sized icebergs looming out of nowhere at about ninety miles an hour. We spend our lives taking gigantic leaps from one crisis to another; always hurrying to leap from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Please understand – I didn’t ask to join this Club. In fact, I’ve not the slightest idea how I fell in with this crowd! I would so much prefer to be like my friends and neighbors, like normal people – but I seem to have been an honorary Club member since birth.
Yes, you heard me: birth. I was the third pregnancy of a couple with Rh incompatibility before the drug Rhogam was invented. For you non-medical people, that means I was poison to my mother, whose body (naturally) did all it could to chuck me out on my ear before I could be safely born. I was born the size of a large grapefruit and was the color of a pumpkin; the doctors all told my mother that they didn’t expect me to survive, but that if by some chance I did, I would be severely, profoundly brain-damaged. They had to fly in an incubator from Houston, Texas to North Carolina (a big deal back then) as well as give me a complete transfusion (very high tech, for the time). Yes, I caused no end of trouble to my poor parents.
At six months old I still wasn’t tracking movement with my beady little eyes or paying any attention whatsoever to sound. (Interesting factoid, since one of my favorite things on the Planet is music.) My mother says they were going to operate to drill a hole in my skull to relieve pressure on my brain because they thought I was hydrocephalic (fluid on the brain), and the surgery was scheduled. Suddenly, out of the blue, while in the church nursery one fine Sunday morning, I “snapped out of it” (my mother’s words) and started acting like a normal kid. I suspect prayer might have had something to do with it; what do you think?
Patience not being one of my virtues, just a couple of months later there was another crisis. My mother decided to fly home, presumably to show off the new baby. (Here’s a great photo of her with my older brother doing the same thing a couple of years earlier.)
Did I behave myself? Of course not! Being already a bona fide Club member, I did my duty and created another terrible uproar. After the plane took off and climbed to cruising altitude, Baby Susan turned blue. The long and short of it was the pilot had to make an emergency landing to keep me from kicking the bucket. Are you getting the picture here?
Well, so much for year one. From toddlerhood until about age 21 my brother and I took turns – about every two weeks, I’m told – being rushed to the emergency room with life-threatening asthma or episodes of allergic anaphylactic shock. We both had the asthma and we both loved furry animals and other such things that caused our eyes to swell shut, our skin to get covered in huge, itchy hives, our blood to leave our heads and pool in our legs and feet and our windpipes to nearly swell shut. If we’d been born before epinephrine shots were available we’d both have been goners a hundred times over. (We still can’t resist little furry critters, though.)
A couple of years later I fell in love with the ocean, and my three-year old intellect couldn’t grasp the fact that something so BEAUTIFUL could also be DANGEROUS. A big wave came along and swept me out into the open sea, and if my older cousin hadn’t happened to be looking my way just then and heroically jumped in to save me, that would have been my short, watery end.
Then we grew up and drove cars. Oh, my. I’ve had 23 whiplash injuries so far, and my brother, less lucky than me, actually broke his neck once. (Driving my car, wouldn’t you know.) I could tell you about the time my brother fell asleep at the wheel on a highway at two o’clock in the morning – the VW bug we were in flipped over several times and finally landed upside down in the middle of the highway in the path of an oncoming semi. (I did warn you about our Club.) I crawled out the broken-out back window, myself – I couldn’t tell you how the other three got out, but what I vividly remember is that our transistor radio got squashed flat as a pancake by that semi. Or I could tell you about the time I had a blowout while passing another vehicle at 70+ miles per hour…or the time I was six months pregnant and was hit head-on by a drunken, drugged out teen running from the cops from another accident he’d caused and the jolly time they had cutting me out of the car – but I think you get the picture, right? I’ll spare you the boring details.
Along about age 30 things were going along too smoothly, so I had to nearly die from peritonitis in order not to let my fellow Club members down, but I’ve already written that story. Then I got pregnant and thought it would be fun to sign up for the Club’s Worst Labor and Delivery Contest (normally I’m not competitive), which I might have won – only I passed out and went into shock from blood loss, so I don’t remember much about it although who knows – I wouldn’t put it past them to have pinned the blue ribbon on my unconscious body, so it could have fallen off when they transferred me on the gurney. Yep. I can just see the hospital janitor nonchalantly sweeping my only First Prize down the garbage chute, can’t you? It’s probably in the Club by-laws somewhere.
I could go on and on, but out of kindness I’ll spare you the blow by blow accounts. The thing is, now that I come to think about it, do you think Gary Larsen and I could belong to the same Club? Do yourself a favor. Keep out!
About the author
Isn't there a beautiful scripture somewhere that says "Those I love i chasten?"
With a record like that if there come days when you awaken and look forward to what's coming then you are truly an optimistic soul. There is an even older comic strip called "L'il Abner" in which there was a character named "Joe Blzmqk" (or some last name that was just a conglomeration of letters). Old Joe was always depicted as having a black rain cloud hovering over his head. Or - a good ol' country TV show the name of which I can't recall at the moment. One segment in that show always opened with a song with these words,"Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark and crashing, excessive misery. If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me." You qualify to live by my home state's (Kansas) motto: "Ad Aspera per Aspera." (To the stars through difficulties.)
I think the TV show was "HEE_HAW".
Susan, I have never laughed so hard at such misery. OMG!!! I'm tearing up and can't even focus on writing my comment. This is an amazing story and one I will send around to a lot of people. It is simply unreal. Knowing the kind of woman you are makes it even more amazing. The fact that you can tell the story with such humor is unreal. I absolutely love this story and am sorry for enjoying it so ch at you expense. What an amazing life. I need more but please don't leave the house.
Absolutely hillarious,Susan!! It is awful to laugh at other people's distress, but yours is just so ridiculous that it is laughable. I've had a few "club" encounters of my own, so I can relate better than you know! I'm just thankful that you've survived because, otherwise, we would not have the chance to enjoy your life stories - - - albeit from a distance! Great job.
Oh Susan, I think our Susan belongs to your Club but she's a trooper just as you are. If you don't mind, and you won't be offended, I think I'll opt out of your Club. Nothing personal! Great story. It's a rememinder of how fortunate most of us are.
After reading that incredible story I admire you that much more!! You've been blessed with a God-given writing talent that we all are ready and eager to enjoy!!!
Susan, I have to "ditto" Patricia and Don! Tomorrow evening at Story@Home 2012 Conference in Salt Lake City, your story would be one of the best at the "Family Story Slam" if you could tell it with a straight face! Keep 'em coming. My reaction was different than Tom's. I just read with my mouth open wondering what the next initiation in your "club" was.
Oh Susan! What was the story prompt about miracles? My answer, you!!
Here is hoping you are soon initiated into the Club of Complacent Lives.