Hi! My name is Kristian, and that’s me over there on the left; or rather, it’s how my nine-year-old stepson sees me. Ok, well technically, it’s my version of a picture he drew of me, because he draws better than I do and I have no idea what I look like as a drawing. Apparently, this is how.
I look pretty typical, if a bit long in the torso. But that’s probably just a dad thing. And also cookies, because I eat a lot of cookies. Cookies are awesome.
Anyway, look closely at my smiling mug. Pay attention to my ears. Specifically, the one that looks like it has a big chunk missing. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because of my unsteady hand and unfamiliarity with drawing tablets and Photoshop.
It’s there because I have a chunk missing from my ear. My once beautiful, perfect ear.
However, no one knows exactly how it happened that my ear went from the very epitome of earish perfection to the deformed monstrosity it is now. No one even knows when it happened. I sure as hell don’t.
See, here’s me as a kid. Don’t I look happy?
That’s because I was a pretty happy kid. I had a great childhood, filled with wonder and adventure and all sorts of the kind of fun you could only have if you were a kid in the ’80s. I remember when microwaves became popular, and how nuking my first bag of popcorn changed my life forever. I’m not sure why they even still sell Jiffy Pop, because popping it involves some pretty heavy lifting on the shake-shake-shake front, and the end result is a half-burned, half-soggy mess of ruined popcorn dreams. At least the big aluminum foil bubble still looks cool, I guess. So there’s that.
My Other Questionable Decisions
But I’m not talking about the ’80s today. It was a weird decade, filled with equal parts scientific wonder with things like the space shuttle and computers, and confusing bewilderment, like the inexplicable success of Cats. I’ll never understand why that play was ever so popular, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with grown-ups doing all the drugs Nancy Reagan demanded I just say NO to. So I did.
Somewhen in the early ’90s, I was getting ready for school one morning. I was probably a sophomore in high school or sometime around that. A junior, maybe. Honestly, my high school years kind of run together like soggy pudding invading the green peas on a poorly-divided cafeteria food lunch tray. But it was either ’91 or ’92, at any rate.
While innocently styling my hair into some kind of hideous ’90s grunge helmet, I noticed something in the mirror.
It had a giant chunk missing out of it, and I had no idea how it had happened. I’d never noticed it before, and I didn’t remember any recent injuries involving the delicate cartilage of my perfectly formed lobes, so I went into a bit of a panic. Maybe this was part of those puberty changes I’d heard so much about, and I could only hope to look forward to further deformations as time went on. Maybe it was ear cancer. I didn’t freaking know; I was just a stupid kid.
Of course, I didn’t immediately ask my parents about it due to the fact that EVERYTHING about your body is embarrassing when you’re a sophomore or junior in high school. For all I knew, this Quasimodo ear development was just an extension of the hairy palms syndrome I’d heard about, and I didn’t want to risk having that discussion. Instead, I quietly went into the living room and grabbed my current school picture off the side table by the couch.
In the way of moms everywhere, my mother had been using the same frame for years, while just putting the current picture on top of the previous year’s, all the way back to my KinderPhoto baby pictures. (All of which eventually turned a weird reddish-orange color, of a shade I can only describe as Oompa Loompa Trumpian. Not quite John Boehner orange, but close.)
I looked at the oldest picture, and my ear was whole.
I looked at my Kindergarten picture. Intact ear.
First grade, second grade, third grade…my ear was wholly present and accounted for in all of them. Until middle school.
I’m not sure which grade it was, but somewhere between 6th and 8th, my ear got the chop. And I still have NO IDEA how it happened.
Somebody knows, though. I suspect my dad has an idea, but has thus far refused to reveal his secrets. However, in my mind, I’ve constructed an elaborate scenario in which he either allowed me to do something stupid, or actually convinced me to, and the end result was my mangled hearing hole. Maybe there was something to do with juggling knives, or perhaps fireworks were involved in some capacity. I have no idea, but I do know that of all the possibilities, my dad knowing about my injury and concealing it from my mother to avoid maternal persecution is probably the best candidate.
But I may never know for sure.
All I know is that I didn’t make it through adolescence unscathed by the scars of war. I’ve just had my memory wiped, or something. Maybe I slipped through a tear in the fabric of spacetime and fought alongside the Resistance in a post-apocalyptic alien world and led my people to freedom before they wiped my memory for the safety of the galaxy or something. No one can prove that I didn’t.
I’m hoping that one day, my father will sit down with me and tell me the story of the time he dared me to ride my bike off the roof and bounce it off the trampoline before landing into a kiddie pool he’d lit on fire or something, but until then, I’ll just keep soldiering on with my monster ear.
Surprisingly, my wife doesn’t seem to mind it, although she recently got new glasses, so that could change at any moment. Or maybe she secretly hates it and just doesn’t have the heart to tell me, but one day when she’s had enough of my crap and she’s spewing forth an endless litany of my failures as a man, the ear monster will come up. And I’ll cry.
For now, all I can do is keep a watchful eye on my son’s lobes and make sure he never has to suffer the same indignities as I. Well, at least until he wants to start shooting flaming arrows down the hallway for science, or maybe learn how to make muriatic acid “bombs” or whatever. Because some things are worth the risk.
© 2015 – 2016, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.