By Tara Overzat
Children shouldn’t have to be parenting themselves – worried about danger, taking precautions, and trying to tell their parents what has to be done.
When I was living abroad, a friend told me a mole that I had ignored for years looked awfully suspicious. He made me promise to have it looked at ASAP. Once I found a reputable doctor at a Western-style facility (boy, could I tell you stories about some of the “doctors” abroad), she looked at me and though she remained calm, she told me quickly and directly, “Yes, we will definitely need to excise that.”
Luckily this awful-looking mole was benign. A couple of years ago, I had yet another spot looked at and was told it had to be biopsied. It too, thank the Lord, was benign.
Yeah, I grew up in Florida and was outside a lot… but this hits me hard for another reason.
For awhile when I was a kid, we were forced to go to the beach. I say forced because it wasn’t the usual few hours at the beach. It was an all day ordeal, spent trying to entertain ourselves whilst our caregiver sat in the broiling sun passive aggressively killing himself with white, red, and blue cans of Budweiser. While we were allowed to put on sunscreen in the morning, we were verboten to reapply it. Whenever I asked, I was angrily denied. As a result we often got very sunburnt by the end of the day.
My skin would itch and peel underneath my shirt at school all week. I would go home and sleep slathered in aloe vera gel.
“Tara, tell him you don’t want to go to the beach,” my other caretaker told me. She never picked up the phone or confronted him in any way – after all, it wasn’t her hurting.
Thing is, it wasn’t up for discussion. If he wanted to go to the beach, we went – and that was final. Besides, if I made too much of a stink, I wouldn’t be able to collect the rent check, as I was often told. So, we suffered silently. And now every new little mark, every mole that looks a little different now than it did a few months ago, is a reminder of that suffering and a fear of something worse.