How to begin writing the story of my infant surgery for pyloric stenosis, I wondered over a decade ago, daunted by the thought of the task. I knew so little about what happened then…….and I was afraid to find out. I knew I needed to write, but I had no idea how to start. Draw, I heard myself say.
My face was a logical place to begin. I suppose I was facing up to something, but what? I had accepted the narrative of my operation that my mother gave me as a child: projectile vomiting, four pounds at 26 days old, rushed to hospital, recovery room: tubes in and out of every opening, “You didn’t remember a thing. I’m the one who suffered” (Mom’s words). But there had to be more to it or by age fifty, I would have been happier. I had a good profession, a companion who loved me, a beautiful piece of land where we were to build a home. What was the problem? Draw.
Eyes of sadness, worry lines in forehead, waves of coursing orange energy streaming down my cheeks. Was I on fire? My confused eyes yearned to know more. The words in the lower right corner: How can I have clear vision? I may have to work some more. It takes a wounded one to see.
Now I notice the black bars striping my lower red, sensuous lip. I am stitched shut, upper lip bloodless. Don’t tell. Don’t feel. Don’t ask.
After finishing this pastel portrait, I knew I was onto something important: the anxiety and fear in my face told me so. Yes, I would keep going forward. I was wounded and needed to know the truth about the surgery that saved my life. Draw.