Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sensitivity, skin deep

Yesterday, I was trying to find out what was wrong with the vacuum cleaner, one of those whizz bang Dyson things that’s meant to pick up pet hair, and somehow in the process, the suction peeled off skin from my finger.

It seemed a minor injury.  It was a minor injury but the pain I felt through this injury is nothing less than ten out ten, whenever the skinned part comes in contact with water or anything other than fresh air. 

And twenty-four hours later it still weeps.

I told my husband it felt like a burn.  I’m familiar with them.  I’ve burned myself often enough over the stove while cooking, but this is a new one. 

I think of St Bartholomew, the apostle allegedly skinned alive for spreading his faith.

The nerve endings in our skin must be vast, or maybe not on our skin, so much as directly under our skin. 

Just below the epidermis lies a land of sensitivity that’s enough to make your heart and body break.  It’s only a small wound, as I say, and I’m sure in time it’ll be fine.  but under this morning’s shower…

 For now it has stopped hurting because I hold my finger gently above the other fingers, give it air, and freedom from further abrasion. 

Speaking of which, there have been a few of late, abrasions that is.  More the familial kind.  We are having a battle in my family of origin about the nature of our family archive. 

To me an archive is a collection box for memories of the past, but my older brother wants it to have a more formal ring.  He wants it to include only historical documents, photographs and other memorabilia of the family. 

This brother does not consider memoir written by contemporary, still living, people sufficient to include in the archive. 

My various siblings and I battle over this.  Though many refuse to participate and are silent, the other half are drawn in and argue over the rights and wrongs of this. 

Why not have two boxes in the archive, my husband reckons?  One for the official stuff that clearly warrants a place in the archive, though once upon a time some of this would have been contestable, too – my mother’s memoir for instance.  There are enough of her siblings who reckon my mother got things wrong.  Not that memoir can ever be about absolute facts and truthfulness, though there are some who demand it. 

In any case, my husband suggests we have one box for the archival of the clearly-past and another box that can act as a sort of clearinghouse. Things like people’s stories of their lives, their recollections, can go into the clearing house, to be corrected as necessary, and in time after some people die, be moved over to the official archive. 

One of my other brothers put up his chronicles and it has upset some people, both for its inaccuracies and in places for its insensitivities.

At times, he writes about things that are somewhat at a distance from him, despite popping up in his diary.  Events that perhaps others should be free to write about when they feel ready, or not at all, but not have this brother display it as a family event on the page for all to see without analysis or relevance or context.

That said, this brother, in my view, has every right to put up his stories – not stories more a diarising of events over part of his life time – even if others disagree.

 The old archival footage is non-contestable, almost – there’s no one alive involved who could protest – but the other stuff, the stuff that pertains to those of us who are still alive, is like trying to hold a boiling saucepan with no handle. 

How do we pick it up without getting scalded, or skinned?

And then next week, we escape from it all, with a sojourn to Scotland.

As my husband said to me over dinner last night, ‘Who would have dreamed that we would ever go to Scotland?’ It seems so far out of our familiar orbit: the Dutch, the German, the Irish, the English. 

But our youngest daughter decided that Edinburgh University was calling and that’s where she is living for a few more months now and that’s where we will follow, for a couple of weeks. 

Only a short time to swallow all that difference and distance, but enough perhaps to get a taste. 

While we are in Glasgow, we will meet with one of my best blogging friends, Jim Murdoch, and his wife Carrie, and the virtual world that is the blogosphere will for an hour or so – and in some ways forevermore – become real.    

Our son-in-law’s parents, who will travel from Germany to visit him and his small family, will stay in our house and care for our dog and cats, while we traipse though the Highlands for adventure. 

Children force you on adventures you might otherwise not venture into.  It takes that much to get me away from the comfort and ostensible certainty of my life at home - notwithstanding the unexpected wounds.  

But that’s a whole other story, why it is that, unlike so many people I know, I prefer not to travel further afield than Victoria. 

Burned by the grief of my mother’s immigration to Australia over fifty years ago, and her heart overladen with a grief too heavy for her to carry, I shared it with her, that grief, even though I was born here. 

I know from my mother, what it’s like to be forced away from your home.  Hence my compassion for all those who come here from other lands, for whatever reasons.  

They lose touch with their idea of home.


Maggie May said...

Beautifully interwoven. And ouch.

Andrew said...

Well, have a terrific time in Scotland. Between your burnt finger and my partner's scratched and bleeding arm by a cockatoo at Grants picnic ground, it is enough personal injury for the day.

Jim Murdoch said...

One of the shows Carrie and I watch faithfully is Who Do You Think You Are?. I see from Wikipedia Australia has its own version and quite right too. It’s an odd show for me to watch because I’ve never shown the slightest interest in my own family’s history. Carrie got it into her head a few weeks back to investigate my lot and she found a few of my ancestors online but I’ve already forgotten everything she learned. Her father, on the other hand, has had her do genealogical research for him for years. I’ve never understood the fascination. Anyway the thing about Who Do You Think You Are? I find most interesting is the fictionalisation of the past. They take what few scraps of information they uncover and build entire personalities around them. Like finding the jawbone of some extinct dinosaur and constructing a creature fifty feet long from it. I always smile when I see stuff like that. The present is a work of fiction—we’re deluding ourselves if we think it anything else—so why expect the past to be set in stone? I’m with your husband: a box for the ‘facts’ and a box for reminiscences. I really don’t see what the problem is. The only issue is one of location and if you’re thinking of your descendants the obvious place is online. A single hyperlink can provide access to an entirely separate library and if the fact-oriented historians don’t want to link to the memoirists’ sites then so be it.

Although we are unlike in many ways I am like you in that I have little interest in travelling very far afield. Ireland was a disappointment (well, Dublin) as was the USA (although unfair to judge an entire continent based on a few square miles of California). I doubt I’ll leave the UK again. I doubt I’ll leave Scotland again. Hell, there’s a good chance I’ll never leave Strathclyde. As a kid I was fascinated by Australia—I had a great big map of the place on my bedroom wall—and I still find it interesting in many ways but it’s a long way away. Any urge to get on a plane and visit faded many years ago.

There’s not much of Scotland I haven’t visited. I haven’t been to Inverness but I did drive by it once. The only island I’ve ever set foot on was Arran which is where I tell my daughter she was conceived and, doing the sums, she quite likely was. When my wife’s son came to visit a few years back we took a trip to Loch Lomond. He wasn’t very impressed with out Munros; he called them “hills”. I suppose compared to the Rockies they are. But they are pretty. I don’t know how much time you’ll have to travel when you’re here but I expect you’ll spend most of you time in the Central Belt; the Highlands is a bit of a hike north plus it’s on the west coast. If you travel north from Edinburgh you’ll move into Grampian which is where Ben Nevis is so it’s still the Highlands except in name.

When Carrie first came over I took her to Edinburgh to show her the place I’d enjoyed rooting around—I used to go to training courses there—but it had changed beyond recognition. All the cool independent stores had been taken over by chains. But the architecture was still the same. Edinburgh feels older than Glasgow but there’ve been major settlements in both places for centuries. There’s been a lot of construction in Glasgow over recent years. It’s lost a bit of its character. I think. Edinburgh is very touristy. That’s what I hated about Dublin. If you’re like I was in the States you won’t really care. It’ll all be new and interesting. Even the supermarkets. I remember when I was in Thurso (which is about as far north as you can go) wandering into shops to buy anything just to hear the accents; they’re soft and lilting like the Welsh. I’m afraid the Glaswegian accent is harsh and I won’t be surprised if you struggle; Carrie certainly did at first. You won’t have a problem with me. Despite being born here and living all my life in Scotland I don’t have a Scottish accent. People used to ask me if I was from Yorkshire but I’ve lost that too. Not quite sure what I sound like now.

PhilipH said...

An unusual way to injure yourself and very sore it looks too.

I'm on an anti-coagulant (Warfarin) and anything that touches my skin with a modicum of force and it causes a bruise immediately. Recently the back of my right hand scraped on the corner of a cabinet and started to bleed. Even though I managed to stop the bleeding it did not heal. After four days I got a nurse at the medical centre to have a look. She dressed it with a non-stick iodine patch and some sticky tape and prescribed a course of anti-biotics. All is now OK.
So, if that wound of yours does not ease off soon I'd get it seen to by a medic. Letting the air get to it also lets all the dust and other grime infect it too.
Hope it all gets better soon.

Kass said...

I am the keeper of all family documents. I inherited them along with the house. I'm a little inspired by your post as to what to do with them, but I wonder who will care (long term).

I'm envious you get to meet Jim and Carrie. How wonderful.