Head banging comes from father’s side

I have sort of confirmed one of the family legends about the late Uncle Richard Cleveland by doing something incredibly stupid and clumsy, but before I cop to you about that, let me tell you the first two legends:

1. He won a Silver Star for gallantry on Pork Chop Hill in Korea. I imagine the Department of Defense might have something on that, but I’ve never checked.

2. When he was a mail carrier, he insisted that at least some of his customers leave a shot of whiskey for him in their mailboxes, else their mail might be a bit delayed.

Do as you wish with those two, but I can pretty well confirm legend the third, to wit:

3. That he knocked himself cold by slamming his head in a car door – between the top of the door and the roof of the car.

I’m inclined to believe that because on Christmas Eve, I was closing the rear hatch on our charming Toyota Highlander hybrid, and I used the strap that is somewhat toward the inside of the car and gave it a yank, and WHAM! I smacked myself in the forehead, causing a bit of bleeding and a lot of pain.

Obviously I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, thanks for pointing that out. As I write this, it’s about 24 hours later, and I’m pretty much convinced that I don’t have what would be at least my fourth concussion.

My first question is, of course: Why the heck is the strap in the middle of the hatch door, because given its position, you (I) have to reach in – stick your head into the vehicle – to pull down the door. My supposition: Because if it’s too close to the back of the car, the strap will get caught between the door and the outside of the car.

So, sure, better to risk concussion than a caught strap. I get it.

But I think I can see now how Richard would smash his head between the top of the car door and the roof. He would have had to have been getting into the car and would have had to have had his attention on something outside the car as he was climbing in and shutting the door and WHAM!

But it would mean that as he was shutting the door, he would have had to have had his left foot still outside the car. Why? No idea, but knowing Richard, it’s possible that strong drink – as the Toolens would say – might have been involved.

Richard’s mother, my Grandmother Molly, was a Toolen, and she didn’t like strong drink, especially when taken in by Richard. (Once Richard called our house in the wee hours to complain to my father that Molly was beating him over the head with the sharp end of her high-heeled shoe.)

Unlike the Richard of legend, I did not knock myself out – grammatically, by the way, I’m pretty sure that should be “knock out myself,” but, hey – and that’s probably a good thing. In none of my three previous concussions was I knocked out, although it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The first came while body surfing off the New Jersey shore, and it landed me overnight in the hospital and a week of bouncing off walls because of dizziness.

The second came when John Ludlum, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, who was helping to build an addition onto our house, “accidentally” smashed me in the head with a two-by-four.

The third was when I tripped over an exposed nail in one of our bedrooms and whacked my head on a window frame.

I’d like to hold it at four, including the Toyota Smashathon, if you please.

My new theory is that I can fight residual concussion syndromes by trying to learn Portuguese, which is INCREDIBLY hard. It makes Italian and Spanish seem like learning English, although maybe that’s not so easy.

I leave you with his quote from Joel McCrae from the movie “Foreign Correspondent” in which he’s talking to a group of, I think, Germans:

“You all speak English? Why, that’s marvelous. That’s more than I can say for my country.”

Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.