Living With Venomous Snakes

I saw two movies in the last two days about families. Dysfunctional families very much like mine. The first, called “The Judge”, was one of the most brilliantly acted films I think I have ever seen. Perhaps it touched so close to home for the fact that Robert Duvall played a man with terminal colo/rectal cancer. Perhaps it was the son, Robert Downey Jr., perfectly illuminating the blinding need for approval from a father incapable of giving him any.

It may have been any frame in the story I thought so uniquely mine, splashed there across the television screen in all it’s feces and blood glory. But I was so moved, so deeply effected that I cried for thirty minutes, the kind of tears that only came twice before in my life: the day my mother’s GI told me she would soon die of rectal cancer, and then the day she did.

Robert Duvall became my mother, my grandfather, my dad sitting next to me, and the whole family became my own. Totally and completely. I feel tears coming up now, just thinking about it. How about that, huh?

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It’s funny how emotions sneak up on me like that. I realized, through my tears, as I ran into the laundry room to let them rip, that I have been petrified of dying. And that deep down, I believe I am. This blood clot thing I have been dealing with is this secret monster in my closet, and if I admit it’s there then it will get me for sure. It will kill me. I will die.

Gosh, even as I write the words I feel my chest constrict, the panic just below the surface, the clot moving to drop me like a stone. How will it feel? Will it hurt? Bad? Will I have time to say goodbye to anyone, and who would I say goodbye to? I don’t want my dad to know the reality of my condition, I know that he will worry, so I have no one to lean on, no one to share this incredibly heavy burden with.

I tried to talk to my brother, but he shuts down on me, always thinking I am going to ask for money, or for him to come help me with our Dad. Really, he is my Dad, because my brother has refused to help me with him, every time I have asked. He took Dad once for ten days, when I had by back/neck fusion in April of 2014. But for all the falls, trips to the ER, surgeries, illnesses and just plain exhaustion he has not been able or willing to help at all.

So why tell him how afraid I am? He will think it is some ploy, some plot to ruin his perfect life.

I was at death’s door before, in Intensive Care, bitten by a copperhead rattlesnake.

It was August 10th of 1995, and I was alone at my trailer in the South Carolina Lowcountry. I had had a few beers, and my husband (I was still married to him then) had gone to the big city for business, and probably to spend the weekend with his mistress. I heard my husky, Gypsy, barking her fool head off, and I went to investigate.

What I found under our mobile home was a two foot long copperhead, beautiful and dangerous, in defensive stance. Gypsy would dart at it and it would strike at her, and I had to do something, fast. I had caught many snakes before this, some venomous, and I was pretty buzzed by this time. Thinking about what an impression I would make on my husband and all our friends, I took off my shirt (we lived in the middle of a 25 acre field), and threw it on top of the terrified snake.

Then, with what I considered a flourish, I reached down and pinned the snake to the ground before carefully grasping the serpent behind it’s distinctive head.

Ooopsie Daisy!!!

I didn’t quite have my grip properly positioned, and, nice as you please, the pretty snake peeped its head out of my shirt and bit me smartly on my left hand. One fang hit my middle finger, the other , my ring finger. I responded with many expletives, and quickly threw the snake into the freezer we kept behind the house for meat.

Believe you me, I was not buzzed any more.

I promptly ran into the trailer and hot-footed it up our 1/4 mile driveway to the main road. I kept telling myself to slow down- the faster my heart pumped, the faster the venom circulated, but then I reasoned – if I didn’t get help quick I was going to die anyway. Thankfully, Dave had an uncle living right near us (half mile away), so we rushed in his Chevelle the 15 miles to the Regional Hospital. I had to keep telling the driver to slow down so we all did not die, he was drunk also. ( there isn’t much else to do in the big woods!)

So, to make a long story short, I was put in the ICU while they marked lines up my arm as the venom’s effect’s moved up my veins. They tested me for the anti-venom, but the doctor said that it would kill me if they used it. My arm turned black and green and swelled to the size of my upper thigh. Through the morphine I remember thinking how foolish I was, to get bitten again, and to be lying there dying, hundreds of miles away from anyone who loved me.

How ironic it all was… and how short my life had been. I had so many amends I wanted to make, as I lie there, so many unfinished stories yet to write. I prayed, pleaded, and wept as I lie there, and then thankfully came unconsciousness. I felt an utter and complete fool, because I had been bitten before!!!! 

And I had not learned my lesson.

It is very late for me now, and I am very tired. One day soon I will tell you that story, and then another and another.

I am glad I have you out there, dear reader. Maybe I am not as afraid now…

After all, if I die then I will be resurrected to life on a paradise earth, and I will never be lonely , sick,  or afraid,  ever, ever, again.

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