I had to act quickly. I had to do something or my already throbbing forehead would soon be in a lot more pain. He was standing behind me, getting things ready. My mother was standing in front of me, looking nonchalant and chatting away. Unfortunately, she was used to this. But I would never get used to it. I was in pain, I was scared and I needed a way out.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.
“It’s right there,” Dr. Brundage said pointing to the corner of his exam room.
Bingo. Adults never refuse a kid who says they have to go to the bathroom. My mother stepped aside as I jumped down off of the examining table and went to the restroom. Once inside, I locked the door and pants still in place, sat on the toilet. I didn’t really have to pee. I just needed a place to hide.
I sat on the toilet looking around, surprised that there was a bathroom located in the examination room because I had never seen it before despite my numerous trips to the doctor. I couldn’t count the times I had been in that office to be patched up, examined or given shots. Because of my past experience, I knew that this time I was going to get shots and stitches and, at eight years old, I decided to fight back the only way I knew how, by hiding. Unfortunately, my hiding spot was right in the middle of the exam room. No matter, I decided I was in it for the long haul; I decided that there would be no shots or stitches for me that day. I was content to sit there and bleed.
Just an hour earlier I had been having fun, playing at my cousin’s house. My uncle kept horses and my brother, my cousins and I had been running and jumping into the back of a horse trailer. The idea was to see who could jump the farthest. The bottom of the trailer was lined with straw and with each jump we got more and more covered in straw dust and dirt. We were having a grand time until I forgot to duck.
I ran towards the trailer jumped as hard as I could, and flying through the air towards the trailer, forgot to duck and hit my head on the metal latch in the middle of the crossbar that held the doors shut. I collapsed to the ground, bleeding profusely from the left side of my forehead.
My mother was called. She came right away and proclaimed that – yet again – I needed stitches. Holding a wet washcloth to my forehead we headed off to Dr. Brundage, leaving my brother at my cousin’s house. Between me and my brother, we spent a lot of time at the doctors. If we weren’t getting stitches – I’d had them recently to my toe and my knee – we were there because we were sick. In addition to various injuries, one year we had chickenpox, measles and scarlet fever. All of these visits made me scared of the doctor.
I had so many stitches in the past that I knew the routine by heart. First, he’d stick a needle into the wound to numb it. That would hurt. That would hurt real bad. One time I asked him if he could numb an injury before he used a needle to numb it. He laughed at me and told me no. After sticking me with needles to numb the pain, he would sew me up. Then he’d give me a tetanus shot. It wouldn’t matter that I already had one. I knew from experience that any time I got injured around the horses, I got another tetanus shot.
And frankly, that day, I was not about to be poked and prodded and get at least two shots and stitches. And so it was that I found myself hiding in the doctor’s bathroom, conveniently located right there in the corner of his exam room, sitting on a toilet fully dressed while holding a wet washcloth to my forehead to collect the blood still coming out of my wound. Looking around, I decided it wasn’t so bad in there. There was a sink, I could get a drink if I got thirsty. There was a light switch so I could turn off the lights when I got tired, although I’d have to sleep on the floor. That was fine with me.
After several minutes, my mother spoke to me through the door. “Lorrie, are you alright in there?”
“Okay. Well, hurry up and come out here.”
“What do you mean no?”
“No. I’m not coming out.”
My mother tried to open the bathroom door and realizing it was locked she said, “Lorrie Ann, unlock this door and get out here right now!”
She used my whole name. Like kids everywhere, I knew that meant I was in big trouble. In addition to using my full name, she had lowered her voice, whispered loudly. I knew I was in for it, but I didn’t care.
Trying to sound brave but failing, I squeaked out a “No.”
I heard my mother tell the doctor I wasn’t coming out of the bathroom.
Dr. Brundage came to the door telling me to come out because he had other patients to see and that it would only take a few minutes to “sew” me up. Sitting there, with the washcloth still pressed to my forehead, that was the last thing I needed to hear. I didn’t answer.
After a minute or two Dr. Brundage said, “If you don’t come out, I’m going to take the door off of the hinges.”
Sitting there on the toilet I looked at the door. I had no idea if he could take the door off of the hinges. He knocked on the door, in the area of the upper hinge. “Right here. See this, I’ve got a hammer and a screwdriver and I can pop the pin holding the hinge and take the door off. ”
Still, I said nothing. I sat there looking at the door wondering if he was telling me the truth.
“Okay, I’m going to get the hammer and screwdriver then, I’ll have you out of there in a few minutes.”
At that point, although I was already in trouble with my mother for hiding in the bathroom, I knew that if Dr. Brundage had to remove a door to get me out, my troubles would be worse. Much worse.
“Okay. I’ll come out,” I said, and I exited the bathroom got my shots and got my forehead stitched up.
I don’t remember my mother saying much on the ride home. When we got home, I went back to my cousin’s house to show them and my brother my stitches. I didn’t tell them what a big baby I was and how I hid in the doctor’s bathroom. Why would I? There were properly impressed with my injury and stitches.
Later that afternoon, my father stopped at my cousin’s house to pick my brother and me up on his way home from work. My father worked as a lumberjack. He was often in the woods all day, away from a telephone, but somehow he always knew what went on at home while he was gone. Whenever my brother or I would ask him how he knew he’d say, “A little bird told me.”
So I wasn’t surprised that day to learn that he already knew about my forehead and I was fairly certain he also knew that I had locked myself in the doctor’s bathroom and refused to come out. I expected him to be upset with my behavior and to talk to me about it. Instead, he took my chin in his hand, tilted my head back, looked at my stitches and said, “You’re such a klutz, you just cost me twelve bucks. Let’s go home.”