Today I hung pictures in my bedroom, colorful original works that I’d purchased at an arts festival. They’d been sitting on the floor since April, propped up against the walls. No handyman then, no handyman now, so I finally gathered my tools to do it myself.
With each spattering of nail holes, I fulfilled cultural myths: women should stay in the kitchen, girls are not good at math. My bedroom looked like it had been machine-gunned by the time I was done. That’s okay—I know how to spackle too. I stepped back to admire my work and noticed a red smear on the wall near the last picture I’d hung. What was that? I looked closer and realized it was blood. Holy!
I quickly tap-danced in place to find the source, knowing it was on me somewhere. I discovered that the smarting in my left pinky was not just a small irritation but rather a deep slice bubbling blood, dripping down my hand. I shot my arm into the air, remembering a first-aid hint to keep bleeding wounds above the heart. I noticed another bright red smear on my way out the door. Holy! The mafia had come to hang my pictures.
As I stood over the bathroom sink watching cold water wash my DNA down the drain, I couldn’t help but think of my dad. Unlike me and my siblings, he has always bled with great nonchalance. He's a woodsman, a hunter and a gardener—a moveable feast for generations of mosquitoes and deer flies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been sitting across from him at the dinner table when an orchid of blood has blossomed through his shirt: a fresh bug bite, or an old one scratched. He could peel a wood tick the size of a tarantula off his scalp and sit there with blood dripping down his forehead—our new half-sibling waving hello with eight legs—and this would not faze him.
“Dad, you’re bleeding” became a routine observation for the five of us Mohler kids growing up, the refrain to the song of life in our household. My mom was capable of loading her lyrics with a little more sense of urgency: “Jim, you’re blee-ding" she'd say, jabbing at her own body to hint at the point of origin. He might glance down and dab with a napkin, but he never looked surprised, and he certainly never tap danced.
Sometimes blood was the most we got out of our dad, and if that sounds like a complaint, it was. It used to be. I wish I had a funny line to make that better. He's always liked a pretty song though (click here), so here's one for you, Daddy. I'll keep looking for a Zamfir version.