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Don Rogers: What a hole can teach

Unbelievable.

I’d just walked in the back door and stepped into space, then ping-ponged off my ribs and the back of my head into a hole five feet deep. It was loud, and fast. So fast.

Before the pain caught up, I wondered if my last words would be, “I knew better.”



………

The kind way to put this is I tend to live in my head… But hey, there’s an agreeable name for my condition, academic even. I’m a “conceptual thinker.”

I had lifted the trap door to the crawl space myself. Only this wasn’t a crawl space. It was deep enough to stand while bent over slightly — practically a basement.




I locked the back door next to the opening in the floor, a relatively wide 2.5 by 3.5 feet. Just had a little last task down there, stringing a new heater vent hose. Five minutes, if that.

Still, I didn’t want to take a chance of my daughter or her mom to blunder in through the door and fall. The thought brought a tickle to the back of my knees.

I called them over, and we all looked into the space. It was a lot deeper than we’d realized.

“Wouldn’t want to fall in there,” I said. They murmured something or other in agreement.

“Be careful,” my wife said.

I laughed.

“Watch, I’ll be the one who falls in,” I joked.

“That’s not funny.”

………

The kind way to put this is I tend to live in my head.

“Can’t you just be present, like, you know, in the moment, once in awhile?” my wife often implores.

“Dad’s a space cadet,” one kid or the other used to snort back when they were young and truly knew it all. They’re adults now. So these days they smile maybe a little too diplomatically when the subject comes up.

But hey, there’s an agreeable name for my condition, academic even. I’m a “conceptual thinker.” Yeah, that’s it. Here, this definition should give you the idea: “The ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues. Conceptual thinking includes the integration of issues and factors into a conceptual framework.”

OK, sure: Head in the clouds. Not oriented to time or space.

“Can’t you just be present!?”

Well, I can. Maybe it takes a chainsaw, high enough surf, a wildfire, a cliffside, a boat and a gale, a ballgame, a crowd awaiting a speech, the love of my life getting angry enough.

Or falling through a hole I knew was there, just a hair too late. Oh yeah. That.

………

The doctor asked later, under fluorescent lights, me dressed ridiculously in a gown with ties in the back, trying to lean back as still as possible to ease the pain across my lower chest. And not breathe.

“Did you lose consciousness at all?”

“No, just my composure,” I answered.

He and my wife laughed. I winced as I did, too. “Serves you right,” she said, eyeing me.

By now staples closed a gash in the back of my head from dislodging a 2 x 4 ledge as I ricocheted down the hole.

“Headache?”

“Not at all.”

We only knew about that injury from the bleeding.

I had landed in a crumple at the bottom, knowing I could have died, wondering if I might yet. Then I heard myself bellowing, terrifying my girls at the other end of the house. In pain. In fright. In shock and the realization of my utter stupidity.

I could hear them come running.

………

I knew the hole was there. I’d taken precautions. I’d shown two of the people I love most the space to make them aware and safe. Then I’d unlocked the door and stepped outside to grab something before coming back in.

By the time I took stock of myself, climbed out of the hole and declared myself fine, well, they would have none of it.

“Oh my God! Oh, my … Rachel, get the keys.”

A broken rib, probable concussion, well-bruised pride. I got off easy.

I decided I’d landed harder snowboarding. Only, there’s a certain swagger to doing this on a ski slope. “Wait, you did what?” doesn’t quite match up.

………

“What was in your head?” my son asked a few days later.

I laughed. It hurt.

“I was thinking about work,” I admitted.

I’d strayed far from home even while there.

Let this be a lesson.

Ouch.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530- 477-4299.


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