When very young my extant siblings and myself had our mouths washed out with soap. After checking with my twin sister recently, we can’t recall what word(s) we used but we’re sure that the vocabulary originated from the woman slinging the soap subs with our saliva. The progeny of an Irish fish wife often swim the same direction singing the same hymn. The experience taught me to be careful of my words; a lesson that prevailed only half the time.
Preparing for a recent heart procedure called an ablation, a CT scan of the heart had to be done the day before. The two CT technicians noticed the six horizontal scars above my groin (this sounds too crass, let’s say, “rhymes with coin”). They complimented the skill of the surgeon who made the incisions and asked if this was from a prostate removal. The reply, “No, I’m an apprentice under Sensei Ginsu, a master of Japanese Hara-Kiri. He insists that I practice my technique often.” The two techs became silent, finished the scan, showed me to the door and instructed me to use the same door tomorrow. Was it something I said?
The day of the procedure a young lady came in with an electric razor and informed me she needed to shave my chest, “rhymes with coin,” and back. While she was busy with the nether regions I asked why the back had to be shaved; after all, it was there my best hair grew–long, thick, dark, luxurious and curly, or so I’ve been told. Her answer was, “I don’t know.” Thinking perhaps this was a young lady into silver back gorillas, I asked her if she could find the answer to this “pre-procedure butchery of folic fur.” The answer from higher up the medical chain was the number and size of the electrode pads that needed to cover the stern. The magnificent mane of back hair had to be sacrificed on the altar of modern medical necessity.
For the next 24 hours after the procedure, during which three incisions were made at the “rhymes with coin,” a nurse would enter my room and invariably ask some form of the question, “I need to take a peek at your “rhymes with coin.” Having learned from the CT techs that humor is often lost on the professionally intense, I mentally catalogued possible answers: a) if I had a nickel…, b) would you like to see the full menu? c) I’m saving myself for marriage, d) is this your hobby or do you have a professional interest? Given the historic reactions of my mother and CT scanners I chose silence.
The most memorable moment came three hours after the procedure when a nurse walked in and announced, “I need to put direct pressure on your crotch for the next twenty minutes.” Awkward is the most charitable word one can use in this situation. Conversation topics are somewhat limited with a complete stranger pressing on your “rhymes with coin.” Some thoughts came to mind: a) do you believe in love at first sight? b) when did crotch handling become a viable vocation for you? c) does your family know what you do for a living? Fortunately, I was saved by the timely arrival of two Army brothers who were retired from the medical profession. Seeing my predicament we engaged in the inane banter of long time Army comrades, “You’re just jealous since I’ve never allowed you to put direct pressure on my nether region, etc.”
Words can make you laugh but they can also be used to hurt or to heal. At times we get confused and think that the essence of prayer is words. After all, Jesus taught to call God Father and passed on to us the Our Father. But the essence of prayer is being in the presence of God, which has little to do with words. Traditionally we have used terms as “meditation” and “contemplation” to try to capture the presence of God at the moment. But all words fall short in the companionship of the Eternal. That is why, as Eucharistic people, we can sit in the church during Mass and realize that God is present to each and all of us. It is also why community is so important for Christians; the Mass is not a personal experience, it is a shared experience, that shared experience we hope to obtain in heaven through the redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Life is strange, no one has inquired after my “rhymes with coin” since I left the hospital.