Friday, May 7, 2010

Yeah, About That Eyeball In The Refrigerator... A Magpie Tale

My father-out-law had a full career as a Medical Examiner.  His work would keep him busy 24-7, which made hanging out with him interesting, to say the least.  Sunday dinners were invariably interrupted by calls from the morgue.  Since our choices were to go along to the morgue or walk home from the restaurant, we usually tagged along.  That was my entry into the world of sudden death.  The phrase "I see dead people..." no longer phases me.

Back at the house, you never wanted to open any envelopes laying on the kitchen table.  Trust me, you don't want to be looking at 8 x 10 color glossies of various crime scenes over breakfast!  My sister-out-law and I used to hold them up to the light, looking at them from the back side to get a preview of how gross they might be before actually looking at them.  Next to my father-out-law's recliner in the family room was a tome entitled The Medico-Legal Causes of Death... heady reading for anyone suffering from insomnia, since it included some incredibly gnarly photos of dead people. 

Then there were the little artifacts of death laying about the house.  I remember the day he brought home a pair of boots from a guy who had been electrocuted.  The resulting shock burned quite a hole through the insulated bottom of the boots... fascinating!  (Remind me not to rely on insulated boots in a watery basement.)  Another afternoon, my father-out-law brought me a skull in a box.  Since I love jigsaw puzzles, he thought I might want to take a stab at putting the pieces back together for him... the deceased had been hit with a ball peen hammer and he was getting it ready for trial.  Oh, yeah... just how I wanted to spend my afternoon!

Back in the old days, when "chain of evidence" regulations were a bit looser than they are today, he used to "bring his work home" quite regularly.  Which meant you never knew exactly what you might find in the fridge when you opened the door to get a Dr Pepper.  

Nah, there weren't usually eyeballs in the fridge, although he was on call to remove eyes from donors for cornea transplants.  But, another aspect of his job was drawing blood from people facing DUI charges... before the advent of the breathalyzer.  Waking up to vials of blood in the fridge wasn't all that unusual if he had gone out on a call after the lab closed down for the night... not surprisingly, the most active hours for inebriates.   Must be why the science experiments currently percolating in my fridge at home just don't bother me all that much...

So whenever I see photos of body parts, it reminds me of my father-out-law and the adventures in death we used to have.

Good times... good times!

Postscript:  My father-out-law's been retired for many years now, but he's still remembered fondly by many in the community.  Why?  Because the key to his successful career as a Medical Examiner was that he was such a compassionate man.  He was most often the one who delivered the awful news to the loved ones of the deceased.  He sat with them as they absorbed the news and helped them contact relatives and make the needed arrangements.  He stayed until he knew the survivors were well taken care of.   You just don't find people like that too often anymore.

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Willow over at Life at Willow Manor  has been providing inspiration for bloggers on a site called Magpie Tales.  A photo of an artifact is posted each week as a writing prompt.  Participants write a story or poem of its history and/or how the item in the photo came to be in their possession.  Be sure to check out the other fabulous writers participating in Magpie Tales this week.  You'll be glad you did!
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