The red arrow leaves nothing to doubt. It points at the start of the labyrinth to the true beginning of the maze. I don’t much like the look of it. This is not the gentle, fun beginning of a child’s puzzle from my girlhood memories. I can already see there’s trouble ahead and I haven’t even started the game yet. Can’t they lull children into a sense, even a false sense, of security and ease a little longer? Why do they have to grow up so fast? My grandson used to love doing the puzzles in these paper magazines. Now, though only six years old, he’s blazed right past them to 5,000 piece jigsaws I couldn’t have done in my prime, let alone my infancy or dotage. Why would there be a children’s magazine in a doctor’s office? I guess children come to cancer surgeons too. I don’t like to think about it.
But ‘Start Here!’ can’t be ignored. If one is lucky enough to be shown the way to begin, why pass it up? My eye slips furtively along the route to the center of the maze where I see things get much more complicated. Plenty of false starts and dead ends, to say nothing of a claustrophobic snarl of misleading passages luring you from one catastrophe to another. It would be better if I hadn’t tried to see ahead and just concentrated on the task at hand. ‘Start Here!’ should have been enough to keep me in the present. Even if you couldn’t read it would be obvious what that arrow is telling you.
“This is one of those times that scar tissue is good,” the surgeon is saying. I guess I must not have been listening. I can’t remember any time in my history of athletic injuries when scar tissue was good; to say nothing of the operations others have had where residual scar tissue caused more trouble and pain than the initial injury. Perhaps it’s time to pay attention.
“It’s because cartilage in the ear has a memory. It wants to go back where it was and we need scar tissue to hold it where we want it.” The surgeon, who seemed confident he could get my ear to do what he wanted after removing the unwanted melanomas my doctor just discovered, felt he should embellish a little. It must have been my look of shock and disbelief. I had this melanoma removed over six years ago. How could it have returned?
Everyone says it’s a shame; not fair after all I’ve been through. But I’ve just spent four months dealing with the shame and unfairness of life as my husband was diagnosed, treated, and died in this very same hospital down these very same halls. It’s a nightmare to be back here so soon, but it’s life. Could my guilt have been well-founded? Was it always meant to be me and not him? I wondered about that all along. Now maybe I’m learning that my suspicion was right, all along.
“Yes, ears have a way of wanting to repeat old habits,” the surgeon explained. “Scar tissue assures they won’t be able to.” I looked out the doctor’s office window at a cerulean blue sky and wondered if life’s scars could be put to the same use. We repeat unhealthy patterns and torture ourselves with reiterated old stories that ended long ago. Can the scars from life’s injuries—dead ends, camouflaged dangers, fears of abandonment—be used to hold our gains in place? Sure, we have to use patience to let the wounds heal, but then will the scarring mold the new people we’ve become and hold them in place?
Ah, but wait up. Don’t get ahead of yourself. It’s enough to start at the beginning. No, perhaps it’s not the fun and games I imagined for my new life. Maybe it’s a lot harder and more frightening than I’d planned. But I’m not sure why I thought it had to be easy and enjoyable in the first place. I see quite clearly that this is in fact the start for me, whether it’s pleasurable or not. Maybe if I just begin I can get past the trouble and move on to smoother flows. Possibly there are good things ahead, never to be found if I don’t move on now. Even scar tissue can be put to good use. ‘Start Here!’