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I was stabbed by a woman last week. Her name is Marta Litchiz. Sounds foreign and exotic, doesn't it? Like we were in a Budapest nightclub working an espionage deal that suddenly went bad.

I wasn't. I was at Rose Canyon Clinic getting my blood drawn for some medical tests. Marta (who looks a little mysterious anyway) was the one taking it out of me.

When the jab came, Marta chided me for my unmanly flinching. We debated the matter. I watched the needle go in. I don't remember flinching. I'm not afraid of needles. But she's the expert on stabbing people.

Even so, I'm something of an expert myself. Getting "stabbed" has happened to me a lot — and with increasing frequency the older I get. If we don't count circumcision, I got my first scar falling off a tricycle when I was 4.

Most recent are the ones 57 years later when I had my shoulder fixed. My scars are a log of misadventure that my grandkids notice.

When I got home from being stabbed, they wanted to see my new "poke" and determine whether it would leave a "mark." It's a fascination that began years ago.

One day when she was about 6, my eldest granddaughter, Hallie, saw me wearing shorts and asked about a scar on my thigh. I explained that it was where someone really angry had once stabbed me with a kitchen knife.

Her: "When you were a police?"

Me: "No. When I was being mean to my littlest brother."

Intrigued, she began pointing at other marks on my arms, legs and face, asking how I got them. Barbecue fork, bullet ricochet, dog bite, car crash, rock fight, I don't remember, parachute landing, another knife, power saw, and punching a sibling through a window.

Hallie examined her own unblemished limbs. Except for a tiny scab on a knee, there wasn't a mark on her anywhere she could find. I watched her process the difference between us and come to a conclusion.

Her: "Papa, were you bad?"

Me: "Yes, but I'm trying to be better now that you're here."

It's not working. The older I get, the more scars I collect. The difference is that I'm now collecting them because of other people's intelligence rather than my own stupidity.

I'm getting scarred by surgeons, nurses and medical assistants, people whose job it is to add days to the end of my life instead of shaving them off.

Hallie wanted to know if she would ever get "marks" of her own. I told her that she would. Nobody gets through life unscathed, but the less you pay attention, the more of them you'll collect.

I also told her that not all marks are the fault of the person wearing them. Unlike me, some people don't deserve the things that happened to them that left marks. Sometimes asking those people about their marks could make them feel bad and leave marks on their hearts.

In any case it's always best to wait until you know people well before asking about the marks they wear. Hallie pointed to my neck.

Her: "What about that one?"

Me: "Hitting shotgun primers with a hammer."

Hallie decided then that she was always going to pay attention and be nice to people. It seemed the best course of action if she didn't want to end up looking like me.

Smart girl. Way smarter than I was at her age.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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