The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 9, 2013

Ojanpa: You are your scars

— If ever called upon to tell your life’s story — or you’re compelled to ask someone to share theirs — here’s how to cut right to the condensed version and keep it interesting for all parties involved:

Talk about your scars. They’re windows to people’s worlds because each tells a tale that can reveal as much about the scars’ bearer as it does about the old wounds themselves.

Scarring begins in earnest in childhood, when you begin accruing them in bunches. The marks from all those scrapes and falls disappear over time — except for the ones that linger lifelong.

One of mine mocks me every time I look in the mirror. It’s a 52-year-old quarter-inch vertical line just above my upper lip.

I’m 11 years old. The football we’re playing with gets lodged in a tree branch. I grab a rock and heave it to free it. Rock hits the ball squarely and ricochets right back into my yap. Four, maybe five, stitches.

 That scar continues to remind: A bloodied prepubescent howling in pain and shame was not a pretty sight. Worse, that football never budged.

On the inside of my right elbow remains discolored skin from the deep patch of it torn off by a headfirst slide into third base an eon ago.

It was just a slow-pitch softball game, but I was called safe, we won, and that scar perseveres like a primitive tattoo, an eternal talisman recounting the glory of that 22-8 rout of either Stub’s Bar & Grill or Midwest Trucking. Can’t recall. Beers were involved. 

Next stop: Small crater scar on left hip. A painful boil was acquired in college. The thing mutated into a painful throbbing pustule the diameter of a pencil.

Doctor? Nah. The business end of a bent paper clip worked just fine. Sort of. 

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