Putting My Skull Back Together

Bill Oakes
MDI Contributor

Suicide doors. If you’re old enough to remember, there were some cars from the 1930’s with rear doors that opened toward the front of the car rather than the rear. 

I was six years old, riding in the back seat of my mom’s ’38 Plymouth and not really paying attention. My brother in the front seat said to open the window. Of course, there were no seat belts in those cars. Cars in those days were not so safe. I mistakenly grabbed the door handle, the door instantly flew open into the wind, and I was instantly swept out of the car where I landed on the shoulder of the road at about 40 mph.

I didn’t remember anything for about a week after my short flight out of that car. I was in the hospital. The back of my skull was fractured, and I’m sure I was beat up in many other ways.  

Having had kids as a father, it’s painful just to imagine what my parents went through. Fortunately there was a brain surgeon in town. He put my skull back together, and I survived. I remember a white bandage on my head, and people visiting my room, and going home after two weeks of hospitalization.

There were some residual effects that were physical, most of which I recovered from eventually. My vision is still affected; my eyes don’t exactly work well together. Another residual effect was the large horseshoe-shaped scar on the back of my head, which was visible to EVERYBODY. My head had been shaved for the surgery, and afterwards I kept my hair short, and I’m not sure why my parents didn’t encourage me to grow it longer to cover that scar.  

With such a look, you might imagine the response from the other kids in school. Kids want to fit in, and I was clearly not suitable for that because of the obvious scar on my head. So, that scar affected my outlook on life because I became somewhat of a loner and stopped trying to be part of the crowd, despite longing to be accepted.  

Physically I was fine; I played football and any other sport that came along. But, I think I might have been less cautious and more sociable without that accident.  

I suppose that normally it’s the trauma where someone receives the scar that affects them, but for me it was having the visible scar that created the self-consciousness that I have dealt with through the years.  

I expect the men who know me might say, “That explains a lot.” However, I have been quite successful in my career, have a 37-year successful marriage, two great sons. I’m an excellent trombone player, and I love my life.

Just perhaps my scar presented the challenges I needed to teach me to overcome barriers and succeed anyway.

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