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The Walking Wounded

As a fan of mysteries, I often read about or watch television shows in which the deceased, found in the woods or water, can only be identified through dental records since no scars mark their bodies. I jokingly remind my children that should I go missing, my body will be easy to identify.

I have six decades worth of scars. A huge one on my back and a keloid one on my left upper arm from removing suspicious moles. A keloid extending down from my belly button after major ovarian surgery when I was eighteen. A small scar on my upper lip from surgery on a cancerous spot. And two thin scars on the left side of my face and neck from five jaw surgeries.

These scars mar my skin, but they do not interfere with my life. It is the internal scars that have defined my journey for the past seventy-six years—a journey rooted in low self-esteem and social awkwardness.

Being taller than my peers scarred my soul, causing me to hug the wall at school dances for fear that my height would bring attention to my two left feet. Teeth that quickly lost the straightness created by two years of braces led me to smile less and hide more behind a protective shield that I erected. I became more withdrawn as I witnessed peers go on dates, have cherry Cokes and fries with girlfriends after school, and eat lunch at a cafeteria table crowded with both boys and girls.

To survive, I turned to books and academics to find some joy in my life. Yet, even as I walked across the stage to get my Phi Beta Kappa key, I felt embarrassed, because I was the tallest recipient—and as a junior, the youngest—to receive this honor.

I hoped that going to my fiftieth high school reunion in 2015 would diminish my internal scars—that the more mature attendees would see me as a person, not as the Green Giant of vegetable fame that they once labeled me. Sadly, I was wrong. Age seemed to have shrunk these classmates physically but not affected their proclivity to ignore me and make me question my sanity for responding “yes” to this event.

I feel like the walking wounded. Creams soothe my external scars, but nothing alleviates the pain of the internal ones.

Ronna L. Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


2 thoughts on “The Walking Wounded”

  1. I too used books to find joy but more so to transport myself to a different place and life. My mother lived with breast cancer and the metastasis that comes for 7 years. I was her caregiver from age 10-17 at a time when pain medication and IV infusions were home treatments. Life does not give back your childhood and your escape routes do not remove the reality of it.

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