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Chuck Hinman. IJM #305: Mom's Birthmark

II's Just Me #305: Mom's Birthmark
The next earlier Chuck Hinman story is The Old Church Piano Reader comments to CM are appreciated, as are emails directly to Mr. Hinman at: charles.hinman@sbcglobal.net


by Chuck Hinman

There is a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek saying ---- "BEAUTY is only skin deep but UGLY goes clear to the bone..." -- that is intended to allay some of the hurt that accompanies the inequities of the distribution of good looks. Gender is not a factor except in how the inequity is handled. It is an accepted fact that aging is cruel. It is also a known that marvelous sun-tans, albeit glamorous on young people become a cruel destroyer of God-given beauty. For many, ravaging skin diseases are the culprit. For others, tragic accidents add their toll. And for still others, devastating birthmarks cause lifetime hurts that are only eased by heeding the familiar axiom -- "Beauty IS as beauty DOES."


If there ever was a person, man or woman, that would have been a likely candidate for the popular TV show, "Extreme Makeover," it would have been my dear Mom, Ina Merle (Mouser) Hinman.

Mom was born in 1893 with not one, but two devastating birthmarks, the least of which was a terribly disfiguring overbite. The crusher was a monstrous skin disfigurement known as a "port wine stain" that fortunately occurs in not more than 3 out of every 1,000 infants. This wine-colored discoloration of the skin is said to be caused by dilated blood vessels.

A famous person Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, was well known for having a port stain on his forehead. My mother's birthmark was massive generally covering one-half of her face and irregularly affecting the right side of her body including her right leg and right hand and arm.

Can you imagine the trauma involved when Dr. Warner handed my grandmother her long awaited baby girl, my Mom, only to find that she had this disfiguring overbite (which became worse as the teeth began to grow) and the crushing blow of the horribly disfiguring port stain which was everywhere!

The horrible truth Dr. Warner had to break to my heartbroken grandparents was that it was permanent, it was a lifetime stigma to be borne not only by my precious Mom but her entire family 60 seconds out of every minute, 60 long minutes out of every hour, 24 endless hours out of every day, seven long days out of every week, at least 4 weeks out of every month, 12 months out of every year for 80 years, seven months, fourteen days, 11 hours, 27 minutes and 14 seconds. At last, Mom no longer had to face the stares of grown curious people, the "what's wrong with her face, Mommy?" The casket lid would mercifully be closed to shield Ina Merle (Mouser) Hinman once and for all from any more indignities of shocked people!

How did Mom deal with the problem? The merciful truth is that everyone that spent a lifetime around Mom didn't automatically notice her birthmark. Mom was mom, Merle was Merle, and her birthmarks were hidden by her personality. The saying "Beauty IS as beauty DOES" was made specifically for Mom. I can't imagine how some of her worst days were for her, but most of her days I remember; she was a beautiful person inwardly no different than any other Mom.

But the birthmark was there every morning of her life when she awoke! It was there after every bath. Every time she looked in a mirror, it was there.

It was P-E-R-M-A-N-E-N-T! Like a life sentence.I understand from what Mom told me over the years when her birthmarks became an infrequent item of discussion (she didn't hide from the truth) her parents took her to Kansas City to a skin specialist who was going to try to remove the blemishes (a massive job). The doctor did a sample place on her upper arm and it left such a hideous scar, that the procedure was abruptly abandoned! The scar was hideous enough!

Mom said that her mom, my grandmother, was an outstanding seamstress and perhaps to make up in some way for my Mom's shameful physical appearance, at least she was the best dressed girl in Gage County, Nebraska.

Apparently Mom led a very normal life and was accepted as any other person (Why not?) in her circle of friends. I think, except for one other boy, my Mom and Dad were long time school sweethearts. I have only heard Mom mention one other heart throb Floyd Patton, as one of her suitors. He became the town banker and he and his wife Florence Patton, long-time friends of my folks.

Mom went to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and became a country school teacher before she became Mrs. Arley Hinman, farmer's wife and mother.

Only one time do I personally remember Mom trying to do anything to alter her Port Wine Stain birthmark. Sometime during the depression days of the 1930's, a product called Pancake makeup came on the market. I can imagine my Mom heaving a sigh of relief -- like FINALLY!!!!!!

I remember the day as though it were yesterday, not 75 years ago, I think the whole family was gathered around her, watching as she applied this "mask like" material to just her face and neck -- not the rest of her body. Almost from the beginning of her extreme makeover of that day all of us in unison including Dad softly chorused.... "No -- it's not you.... No.... we want you like you are, Mom!" It makes me cry as I write this, because even though she was my Mom and we were very close, I can't imagine the hope that went up in smoke for her that day. Life is extremely cruel for some....

I don't remember what brought on Mom's decision in the early '30's to have her overbite finally corrected. I think it was done by a local dentist. I know it included having all her teeth, both upper and lower, pulled and then her upper mouth reformed which included sawing out the bones of her overbite.

I remember so well the horrible pain that Mom went through for days and weeks. She got up at night and walked outside trying to keep from disturbing our sleep. Apparently whatever she was given for pain did little to alleviate it. I remember that it hurt her so bad for such a long period of time, that she accepted someone's suggestion to get a bottle of whiskey. She did in fact do that even though that was probably the first and last bottle of liquor in our house.

Under an enormous psychological handicap all her life, I would say that my Mom led about as normal a life as you could possibly live. I don't remember her birthmark being an item of many discussions. I don't remember feeling she or any of the rest of the family was "avoiding the obvious."

I would say that her birthmark could best be described as a "non-issue" to most of the people who knew and loved Ina Merle (Mouser) Hinman, my Mom.

Written by her loving Son, Chuck HinmanChuck Hinman, a former Nebraska farm boy, spent his working days with Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas. He lives at Tallgrass Estates in Bartlesville where he keeps busy writing his memories. Chuck is visually impaired. His hobbies are writing, playing the organ, and playing bridge.


This story was posted on 2009-06-28 05:14:34
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