My Dad Passed Out at the Sight of My Blood When I Was a Kid—and He’s a Drill Sergeant

I was in the ER to be stitched up. He came to make sure I was OK, but when he saw the sight of blood—this happened.

Jul-Aug-FEA-The-Moth-Illustration-by-C.-F.-PayneIllustration by C.F. PayneLackland Air Force Base, Texas. I remember the first scar I ever got—it was actually two scars.

I was six years old, teaching my little buddy next door how to golf. I’d taken my dad’s bag of golf clubs and dragged it out in the yard.

I wanted to show my friend how to hit the ball, so I stood behind him and had him choke up on the nine iron. I was all gung-ho to be a teacher. I coached him on the backswing and then the follow-through. And then he whaled back and hit me in the head. The nine iron took a chunk out of the back right quarter of my scalp and, on the follow-through, hit me on the other side. I had two giant flaps of skin peeled off my skull.

The blood just starts pouring down. I put my hands up, and I feel the soft, wet part and then the little bristly, hairy part. I pushed my scalp back up and went running into my house.

I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face. She’s in the kitchen with her cat’s-eye glasses, talking on one of those black rotary-dial phones. She just let go of the phone. I had blood running down my arms and all over my little white T-shirt. She made this dying pigeon noise and called my dad, told him to meet us at the emergency room.

We pull up to the ER at Lackland Air Force Base. My dad was a drill sergeant. Rolled-up sleeves, the tan uniform, the Smokey the Bear hat.

His job all day long was to yell at guys, tell them that they were no good and that his grandmother could do everything they could do, but better.

MORE: 45 things America’s troops wish you knew about shipping out, coming home, and how their lives changed.

He comes in and says, “Where’s my son?” And there I am on the table, drenched in blood.

The doctor says, “We’ve gotta shave a li’l bit there, and then we gotta stitch him up.”

And my dad’s there and he’s holding my foot. He’s looking at me. He’s like, “Are you OK?”

But I heard, “ARE YOU OK?”

So I was like, “Yes, sir! I’m OK. No problem.”

The doctor tells my dad, “Stay here. I gotta go get the needle.”

My dad looks at me, and then his eyes roll back in his head … and he drops. I think he’s trying to make me laugh, trying to give me a little encouragement. I’m laughing.

But on the way down, my father hit his head on the end of that metal table so bad, it caught his eye socket and ripped.

I’m lying on the table, saying, “Dad, that’s funny. Um, where are you?”

And then the surgeon comes in, and he’s like, “What the … !”

My dad was unconscious in a giant pool of blood, his uniform completely drenched. The doctor lowers the table; we get my dad onto the thing. He’s stitching my dad up, and I’m watching and helping. And my dad is out cold. He gets 16 stitches from the corner of his eye all the way back up.

Then the surgeon says, “Help me put your dad in the wheelchair.”

Jul-Aug-FEA-The-Moth-Courtesy-Ed-GavaganCourtesy Ed GavaganAnd then the surgeon stitches up my superficial scalp wounds. Once I’m all stitched up, he wraps my whole head. I’ve got the Q-tip-looking head with the blood spots soaking through.

My dad is still out cold, and the surgeon goes, “Just push him out to your mom, OK?”

And my mother is in the waiting room. I come out pushing my father in the wheelchair, but I’m not very tall, so I’m kinda looking over the side. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face.

All-these-wondersvia amazon.comThank God she was sitting down when she fainted.

Told live at a Moth show at Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York, NY

Ed Gavagan, 54, owns a furniture and design company. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

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