“Oh no coach, you’re bleeding!”

“I’m always bleeding.”

I can’t believe I still have this conversation. Honestly, everyone should know by now.

Back at the cars after a mountain bike ride, blood streaks my arms. A kid, usually one of the younger ones, approaches me with concern. At some point during the ride, I brush up against a branch or bust through an overhanging thorn bush and my skin tears. Bright red blood seeps through my skin and mixes with sweat. Dramatic streams flow and then clot along my forearms, causing tacky scabs, several inches long. By the end of practice, I look like I lost a fight with a raccoon. This only seems to happen to me. I’m the oldest coach.

A couple years ago, the skin on my forearms began to emulate crepe paper—dry, rough, wrinkled and see-through. I believe this is a common feature of the aged—meaning late seventies on up. Not someone still in his fifties. In a short story I wrote five years ago, I poked at this and possibly jinxed myself.

The Blue Trail: His only distinctive feature was age. I’d put him squarely in his eighties. But not with a wrinkled face; he was the sort of man who aged without developing the deep lines of expressive emotions. The feature that told his age was his papery transparency. I could see beneath his skin.

That transparency is my feature now, at least on my arms. The bloody mess is easily washed away in my post-ride shower, but I’m left with splashes of blood that spread just beneath my skin. Like a Jackson Pollock tattoo, my arms are speckled and splattered with red blooms. Because they take a week or so to fade, they become part of my summer and fall wardrobe.

A few weeks ago, my father entered the dining room at his assisted living complex. He brushed his leg against a parked wheelchair, and his skin simply tore open. His lower pant leg and sock immediately drenched with blood. He spent the day at the emergency room getting stitched and glued back together. A few days later, he returned for a twenty-four-hour antibiotic I.V. drip.

I see my future. I’m wet newspaper.

Last summer, my wife, kids and I met up with my brothers to watch planes land. Washington National Airport adjoins a field where planes buzz directly above you as they take off or land (depending on wind direction). Landing days are more interesting because you can see the planes coming in for miles. As we sat and talked and tried to be the first to identify an incoming plane, Eli noticed a bloom on my brother Dana’s arm. “Oh yeah, I get these all the time.”

I guess this crepe paper skin thing is genetic. For me, it swings between mildly interesting and slightly annoying, but I see it can become a serious problem. This was actually the second time my father wound up in the hospital after peeling a sizable portion of his shin like a banana. My leg-skin is still pliable, which is good, since I bump into stuff all the time.

Right now, I can’t show you a good picture of recent blooms. A couple of weeks’ worth of blooms are in various stages of fading, but my most recent ride just left me with a bunch of obvious scratches. A photo now won’t properly illustrate what I’m talking about. Here’s a 2019 photo of the first bloom I ever had. At the time, I believed I poisoned myself by cracking open a cathode ray TV screen. Now I believe it was caused by a mosquito bite.

Painting by Jackson Pollock.

38 thoughts on “Blooms

  1. My lab is 100 pounds of bounding love when you first enter our house. For my parents, this means 100 pounds coming directly at their skin to tear it open. The lab cries from the laundry room every time they visit now. I don’t have this feature yet, but I guess it will hit me in due time.

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  2. Ageing is no fun at all. Not that I’d say you were ageing at such tender years. I used to look after a lady in her 90s (before I had my disability) – she was constantly scraping herself on things, often rose thorns in the garden. She bled easily through fragile skin, as you’ve described with your father. I, too, have noticed that the skin on my arms is going rather crepey, and I hate it. I rub moisturising cream into them as it helps soften the skin and lessen the beginnings of any wrinkles I have there. My legs and everywhere else are fine. I don’t know why arms seem to be affected first – perhaps because they’re more exposed to the air and sunlight—just a guess. I’m lucky that I rarely scrape myself enough to bleed, probably because I move around at a snail’s pace, and my wheelchair takes the brunt of any knocks. There are definite advantages of having a disability like mine. I like the Jackson Pollock painting, by the way ~ Ellie 🦢

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    • Putting away dishes a few weeks ago, I scraped my arm on the cabinet and tore back a big chunk of skin. It’s just ridiculous. When My allergy doctor saw it she expressed alarm and I just shrugged and said it happens all the time.

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  3. Jeff, I have to commend your excellent imagery here. As someone whose genetic line is also predisposed to this feature, I have lots of occasion to observe these patches in my parents and now I may never be able to unlink them from the phrase “Jackson Pollock tattoo.” Which I aim to remember when they start appearing on me eventually, as I’m fairly certain they will. I like the edgy vibe of this phrase!

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    • This is such a nice comment. Thank you. I just finished up a get together with my family. My brother and I compared blooms and my father scraped the back of his hand badly on a screen door. We’re a sad lot. 😂

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  4. As a nurse I have been long familiar with how fragile our skin gets as we age. I think the fact that our forearms get more sun exposure than other parts of our body makes the skin there more fragile. For those with the most fragile skin we use a product called geri sleeves for extra protection.
    My bleeding episodes usually occur in the shower when I try to shave my legs. I blame my aging eyes–I usually hit a mosquito bite or mole. Not a pretty sight.

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    • Today one of those blooms appeared. I didn’t even bump it, I just lifted a couple of bags of gravel. Lots of readers here have indicated that they embrace their Jackson Pollock tattoos. I guess I should do the same. If I shved my legs, I think I’d be in trouble. As it turns out, I don’t have any hair on my legs. Not sure why.

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  5. Great story. I never thought of them as blooms. Wait until you reach the point when you suddenly realize you scratched an itch caused by dry skin and raked it with your shredding fingernails, which suffer the same age problems, and…oops, blood is trickling down my leg. I wake up with bloody scratches. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I scratch myself bloody frequently. In fact sometimes it’s one of my tourette tics. I first noticed that things weren’t healing properly on my legs about 10 years ago (still in my forties). God knows where I’ll be by 70.


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