Select Page

A bevy of interesting things must have happened in 1981, but I remember only one. It was the year in which one member of the Smith family extravaganza that was science experiments and freakish foods and trips to Chinatown and long bikerides and hanging on the fence waiting for my father’s paddleball games to hopefully not end with a broken wrist, simply was no more. Sure, we had mourning and sadness and pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps and other assorted death-related conversations and periods of morose thoughts and whatnot.

And then one day a classmate of mine asked me if I thought my mother would remarry. It was not something I’d thought about, and I kept on trying on the word stepfather. My stepfather. I could have a stepfather. Would he be a kind stepfather? a nurturing stepfather? A violent jerk of a stepfather? I wondered these things.

In the end, I grew up and left the house without a stepfather, and if my mother were to remarry now I’d have a “mother’s husband,” not a stepfather. I’m too grown, too independent, too fully formed to get another parent at this age. Unless he has a boat. But I digress.

So I figured I’d go my whole life without a stepfather, and I figured that was okay. Of course, having one would bring the grand total of humans bearing a Y chromosome in the extended family to three, and that might be interesting, but aside from that, I really haven’t given it much thought. Until recently.

Recently (and now my mother is going to find out and be all kinds of annoyed with me for not having mentioned this earlier) I suffered a kitchen incident. Not an incident really, so much as an accident. There was a great slicing. And flight from the house, amid applying pressure and the eventual application of stitches (still with me, mom?).

As it happened, this was on the outside of my right thumb. Nobody really wants details, so let’s just say the stitches are out and I’m fine and all that. And in my defense, this was during a period of great familial stress, so I decided to mostly keep mum on the topic. So what’s this about the stepfather?

Well, it turns out that the word for stepfather in Spanish padrastro, also means hangnail. You know, that pesky little piece of skin that won’t stay stuck down to the side of your nail and you clip it and nibble at it and man does it ever hurt, and you try lotion and even gloves at night and darnit, why does it keep happening?

Well the location of my injury is right in the hangnail zone, and between the “curaciones” (bandage changings) and the stitches and the steristrips, I am pretty much healed. But there was this matter of (sorry) dead skin to contend with. And I won’t give details, because really, who wants them.

Let’s just say that only 28 years after my father died, I finally got the mother of all padrastros, the most beautiful of hangnails. And it didn’t come with a boat, so I just performed a little home surgery. Please! no photos!