A life changing experience will not allow this woman to move on.
| I have come back home with feelings of despair and hopelessness. I am reaching out to rediscover the joys of my past. As I walk across the pasture, there is the tree of my young dreams. Now it appears as sad and damaged as I feel. Where is the wonder that was my childhood? Where is the fruit? Once upon a time that sad, wasted tree was pregnant with Red Delicious apples and the fragrance was heavenly. The taste, indescribably sweet, with juices and pulp that would melt in your mouth like a lover's kiss. I often pictured my future to be as delightful as that tree.
I would sit for hours beneath the branches, my imagination blooming on a family quilt. Great-Grandma Herring received it as a wedding gift, hand stitched with love by family and friends. The pattern was a tulip garden with bright colors of ruby red, lemon yellow, royal purple and sapphire blue. With the quilt under me, dreams and ideas flowed like streams of cool water. I filled notebooks with magical words. I just knew those tales were incubating in that tree, for over a hundred years, waiting for me.
I was quite sure this was a secret place where lovers came to whisper sacred words to each other. The branches curling around to protect them from prying eyes. The ground underneath was soft with silk grass, nature’s blanket. Often picnics were brought with homemade treats to entice and display skills necessary for a good wife.
The tree watched boys become generous men. Girls discovered the touch of a male hand can thrill tender skin, sending exciting sensations into their inner being. Many of these were brave boys going to war as their sweethearts cried tears of pain. So young, they had no idea how to handle war. Their dreams had been to go to school then oversee the family farm, ride horses, play cards, shoot game and drink whiskey with friends. This is what they knew. They would fulfill their families destiny with marriage and many children.
Then an awful war interrupted their plans. They had no wish to fight but what choice did they have? They had pride, love of country and ideals. So they gallantly took a handkerchief and dabbed at tears of girls that pledged forever love. Secretly, they hoped love would open a girl’s secret garden and let them in before a bayonet destroyed their dreams forever.
I believed the tree continued to flourish each year as wars and young lovers came and went with passion burning. Often life began under that fertile tree. Children played under it and climbed the branches. They picked the delectable apples and proudly took them home. Those apples fed people as pies, cakes, side dishes, applesauce, turnovers and other treats.
Unfortunately, an awful fire began one year. It burned quickly and destroyed the house, farm and even two of the horses were trapped. Their blood curdling screams were heard by neighbors who tried to put the blaze out. Our family wasn’t at home and the home was far from a fire station. No one could save the horses and a neighbor had to shoot both of them. “Wind Chaser”, was an extraordinary Tennessee Walker and “Velvet” was a quarter horse with a black coat as soft as a bunny.
That all happened when I was in college. My parents had been traveling and someone was caring for the property and horses. No one knows how the fire started. The horses were my pets and the pain of their loss was almost unbearable. The house was rebuilt, a smaller and more modern home. They decided on a pool rather than horses. It was heated and covered. There was new grass in the front where sod had been put down.
Here I stand, across from a tree that gave me so much joy. Like me, it is fractured and broken. Its' leaves are gone and apples are visions of the past. I do remember that sensational taste and smell that was like no other apple. Each bite promised hope.
My childhood dreams have slipped away. It is now a land of nightmares. A place where you could shoot a black and white horror movie and the only color would be red. I close my eyes and can smell blood, that metallic smell that invades your mouth and stomach. I can see it oozing from under the tree as if it had been pummeled with bullets from all those soldiers that had dreamed with pleasure. They drank cool well water under it and then died in wars.
I fall to the ground. The accident comes back in vivid color. I remember screaming tires, a sickening crash, exploding glass, sirens, and someone sobbing hysterically. Later, I realize the sobbing was coming from me. I was in the front, the passenger side of an older sports car without an airbag. As glass around me shattered, much of it was embedded in my face and body. I have my sight, a severely fractured nose that has now healed and I can eat soft foods after five surgeries.
At first, I would hide away in my house because people don't just stare, they gawk. People can be so cruel. I was only twenty-three and quite attractive. The plastic surgeons tell me a couple more cosmetic surgeries and a specific foundation make-up will cover any facial flaws that are left. The surgeons are proud of their work. They compliment each other comparing my before and after photographs. People tell me how well I look now.
“You can hardly tell. It is amazing what medical science can do.”
Much of my body is donor skin so it is supposed to be soft and pliable. I can walk but my arms and legs are very deeply scarred in places. There is a strange feeling of heaviness like I have a full diaper between my legs. I am still having skin grafts. One became very infected and now it looks worse because they had to cut deeply into my calf to remove the necrotic tissue. I will never have a normal face because of the irregular skin surfaces. There are patches and scars and my mouth doesn't close like it should.
When I look in the mirror, I see the monster I was five days after the accident. My face is as scarred now as then. Talking to a therapist is the recommendation. What can they do? Is there a magic cure to reverse what I have done? Once words are spoken they cannot be taken back.
I don't deserve to heal or even to be alive. The creature in the mirror is my punishment.
My husband was in the other seat. He was killed.
We were coming home from dinner at our favorite restaurant. I had tried to tell him all evening, to make the words come.
They did, just as he took the hairpin curve.
"Michael, I want a divorce."
By Kathie Stehr