And I Didn’t Even Drink the Spiked Eggnog. An Ode to Keeping Your Head Over the Holidays.
The nurse checked me in and sent me in the back to get my vitals. My BP was a bit elevated, which was to be expected. “Family” was allowed back with me, family in this case my two closest friends here in Spokane. My family is all long gone, this is my holiday home. We’d just come from Christmas Eve dinner at their daughter’s. This was the first year Jill wasn’t hosting the annual dinner at their house.
That, in fact, had caused the problem. The enormous pot of clam chowder, the family’s decades-long tradition for Christmas Eve, had been my downfall. In all the years before, that pot sat on the stove for seconds, and afterwards was emptied and stowed in the fridge. Its dense weight had always been safely balanced on the stove top. Nobody had to move it around.
This year, that heavy bastard had to be transported to the kids’ new house, then brought home. There was plenty left over. In fact, way too much. Not as many people at the table, newly-partnered members now engaging in time shares with other family members across town.
During dinner, my friends, both of whom enjoy their alcohol, had scotch, wine, beer and whatever else was being served.
I don’t drink. Not a drop. Never have.
After we drove home around 9 pm, since we had to be up early to be back to open gifts today, we parked right next to the house to unload. To avoid accidents on the thick black ice that limed the driveway, mind you. Smart move. Let’s be safe. People are tipsy.
Here, I’ll Take That For You
Being the one completely sober, I balanced the big, heavy box that housed the chowder into my arms and walked slowly and carefully towards the foyer. Of course, being completely sober and also very strong, I made the quite reasonable assumption that if anyone could be able to safely convey the clam chowder to the house, I by God could be counted upon.
Well of course I could.
Doug opened the door. Their two very large German Shepherds, having been cooped up for hours, rushed at us like a couple of defensive tackles in a playoff game. Since I was the one with the ball (the chowder in this case) I was the first target. I can think of several NFL teams whose D’s could have used these dogs (Hey Arizona Cardinals….)
My knees buckled, I stepped on the loose laces of my right sneaker and toppled forward.
Pitched forward by the weight of the chowder, I hit the brick wall inside the foyer with all the delicacy of a runaway train. With my forehead.
My glasses went flying, and I went down.
The dogs jammed their cold noses into my face.
Dude, you okay? Can we have summa that chowder???? Hey can somebody get a medic in here????
Remarkably, I still carefully put the chowder down. I didn’t realize until later that I had laid down a bright red ribbon across the surface of the soup. I was watching a bloodbath on the foyer floor. My bloodbath. Ow. I was bleeding Christmas cheer all over the floor, my sneakers, my hands.
Doug saw me down, rushed in and hollered
WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?????,
inches from my right year. He’s got a command voice, and it nearly blew my eardrum open. Perhaps not the kindest thing to do to my brainpan right then but he was scared and concerned. Of course he would be. Besides, I’d just decorated his entire foyer, and somebody was going to have to clean that all up.
The dogs were licking my face, the floor, and angling for the chowder. Loose ball, as it were.
I did my best to stem the red tide. It doesn’t help that I’m a hemophiliac. Head wounds are famous for their blood floods. Mine are right spectacular.
I moved my red waterfall to the kitchen sink where we employed pressure. The steady drip turned the green washcloth into a Christmas compress.
In the movie The Santa Clause, a fall off the roof cost Santa everything. This just cost me a rather generous amount of blood, a nasty headache and my dignity. Such as it was after going ass over teakettle in the kitchen a few days earlier, when the laces of that same shoe caught on the dog fence.
OK. It might not be Halloween, but I am now convinced that Chucky lives in my right sneaker. That’s twice in as many days. Time to burn the shoes.
Within a few minutes, the fog cleared. My erstwhile family instructed me to get in the car and we would leave right away. So I sat in the car, head pounding, bleeding temporarily under control. And waited. And waited. And waited. Apparently all that alcohol had resulted in two long side trips to the toilet. There’s only one in this small farmhouse. I wondered if someone had fallen in. Time passes slowly when a nuclear bomb is going off in your frontal lobe.
Eventually they loaded up and we sped to the nearest emergency room. Our local VA clinic was closed for the holidays. Of course they were. Vets don’t get hurt over the holidays. Of course we don’t.
Two hours later, the three of us were still in the ER. I called it quits. We went home after I signed the waiver. I wasn’t so much refusing care as refusing to spend the rest of O Holy Night in an emergency room, waiting for a doctor, especially with my adopted family falling asleep in the chairs on either side of me.
Fuck it. It’s Christmas Eve, I needed to bloody well lie down.
As the three of us drove home, I started laughing.
“I’m the only one in this family who doesn’t drink,” I choked out between guffaws. “And I’m the one who keeled over and smashed her head into the wall.” After a long pause, both of them joined in the giggles.
Come on, it is funny.
When I went to bed that night I curled a heating pad around my shoulders and upper neck, which hurt a lot more than my head.
I slept like a baby. First time I had slept through the entire night in recent memory. Weeks. Months.
Years, perhaps. It might be an excellent strategy for me to whack my noggin just before bedtime to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Or, maybe not.
This is the twenty-second time I have cracked my coconut. I’m no fool; I know the drill. Usually it’s from some ridiculous sport.
But clam chowder?
I survived Christmas, so far at least. Last night my best friends were reluctant to allow me to carry the enormous (and ridiculously fragrant) prime rib into their daughter’s house. There were two equally-large, equally-uncontrolled Labrador Retrievers waiting to greet us at their daughter’s door. More defensive linemen, highly motivated to cause a fumble.
Blessedly, there were no leftovers to cart home.
They did cart me home, all in one bruised piece. This morning the VA opens back up and I will cart myself over to see if there’s any lasting damage other than a mild headache.
Apropos of Absolutely Nothing, But Stay With Me Here
I make a dish that is my favorite meal, which is a combination of squash, ground turkey, mushrooms and spaghetti sauce. The other day I brought a bowl of that hot dish up to where I work in my friend Jill’s loft, where I stay when visiting. I managed to fumble the very hot bowl on my work table, sending part of the contents flying. I cleaned the table, but failed to notice that which had slapped the far white walls. There it sat and dried, looking for all the world like a bloody Jackson Pollock painting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Pollock).
Jill came upstairs to check on me yesterday afternoon. When she saw the splatter she stopped dead. The bits and pieces of grey matter (ground turkey, thank you) and spag sauce looked for all the world like brain splatter.
She gave the me the stinkeye and pointed.
“That you?” she queried, ready to sweep me off to the emergency room again. Not without cause, mind you.
I looked up, surprised. Then laughed.
“No,” I said, smiling. “All my brains are still inside my head.”
Well. For now, at least.