The day was Valentines Day, 1989. It was around 8:30 p.m., and I was on stage at the College in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. It was opening night, and other than the fact that our "Modern Major General" was starting to lose his voice, things were going very well.
I had spent six months preparing for this role, without knowing whether or not I would even get it. I had let my hair grow long, both on the top of my head and at the bottom of my chin, having what could only be considered a straggly goatee, and a not-so-embarrassing mullet. I had learned to rise a motorcycle, and was trying to fit in as best as I could into the Pirate King groove.
Then, halfway through the second act, in a scene we had done over 100 times, I stepped across the stage to sing "Away, away, my heart's afire..." At the same time, my friend DEl had pushed down on the handle of his sword just a touch more than he normally would have. Suddenly, something hit me in the face, and as I looked up, I saw three of my friend Heidi standing in front of me.
That was unusual. I knew then, as well as I know now, that there should only have been one of her. My nose hurt, and felt like it was broken. I reached up to hold it for a second, and two things happened. First, my hand came away bloody, confirming to me my belief that my nose was broken. Second, all three Heidi's merged into one. the second thing was good.
We somehow managed to start the song (Heidi giving me a little help at the beginning) and moved forward. I realized that if I let go of my nose, my triple vision came back, a condition which cause another condition--nausea. So I held my nose. Of course, holding my nose made it difficult to sing, so I had to lift my hand and pinch my nose from above--yes, it looked as ridiculous as it sounds!
Meanwhile, DEl has started his part of the song on the other side of the stage, and STILL had no idea he had skewered me with his foil. When I finally turned to walk over, his eyes almost bulged out of his head. He looked left, then right, then down, before holding his WHITE sailors hat under my bleeding face. Within a moment, Heidi had joined us and we moved up stage to the center, where we finished the song.
I noticed as we sang that anytime I spit blood, the audience laughed. not being one to pass up an opportunity to get some audience-appreciation, and made sure to spit blood as much as possible, spraying the whole center of the stage with little red dots. The audience roared with laughter. Of course I hadn't yet convinced everyone. The people behind my wife complained that it seemed unrealistic, since there couldn't possibly have been THAT much blood, had it been real!!! She didn't find that as amusing as I still do, so she kindly (?) informed them that it was not a fake-blood scene.
"Aw, man," I exclaimed as we left the stage. "I think my nose is broken!"
Little did I know that there was a gaping hole in my face where one shouldn't exist! I was taken downstairs to the makeup room, where I was NOT allowed to see a mirror. The hospital had been notified and we were reassured that an ambulance would be there shortly. The hospital was only FOUR BLOCKS away, so when it took 45 MINUTES to actually get the ambulance there, we were mildly upset.
I was mostly upset because the play was finishing without me. I was not to ever get back on stage in that part. Our "Mabel" would get sick the next night, tossing her cookies backstage--or in whichever strategically-placed bucket she could reach. By the following day, she was in the hospital, suffering from dehydration. She would not return to the stage. Our Modern Major General had almost completely lost his voice by closing night. It wasn't too much longer before the director retired.
At the hospital, the best plastic surgeon in the area just HAPPENED to be on call in the emergency room! he stitched me up quite nicely. The next couple of days included nausea and tests. I had a CT scan the next day and an eye exam a few later. The CT technician looked at my scan, eyes wide, then glanced up at me.
"I can't believe you're standing here talking to me!" he said. "You should be either blind or dead!"
Those were very comforting words. He showed me on the scan where the blade had fractured the orbital The bone surrounding the eye) in TWO places--on either side of my eye. He told me that if the blade had entered at ANY angle other than the one it did, it would have taken my eye, blinding me, or entered my brain, killing me. His exclamation that I shouldn't even be there really made me take stock of life.
As it was, my eyesight was not affected beyond the internal bleeding which made me see double and gave me a really cool black eye. I couldn't ride my motorcycle for at least a week or two, since I had no depth perception, and my balance wasn't the best either. I didn't even end up with a very bad scar. In fact, you can only see it if I crinkle up my nose.
Three years later--to the day--my oldest daughter was born! She turned 18 today. I have tried to never take for granted the time I get with her, my other kids, or my lovely wife. Life is good. Not much else matters enough to really phase me. I still get discouraged now and then, but in all, I know that with the Lord's help, anything is possible! Coming that close has kept me always looking forward. The past is done. We can learn from it, but should never let it control us. Today is what it is, and cannot be otherwise. I live now for tomorrow. I have to, because I have learned that each day we are given is a blessing, and we never know when it will be our last. But don't worry--I still have fun. Just ask anyone who knows me!