From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

A Forkful of Humor

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

James Baldwin

If something has to go wrong, why does it have to happen while we’re on vacation? It seems like every trip our family takes, we wind up making a visit to a hospital or clinic. It’s one thing to visit these facilities while we’re home and can utilize the comfort zone provided by our own family doctors, but while vacationing we are ultimately at the mercy of every student of the nearest medical school. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to diagnose an ear infection and prescribe some antibiotics. And it certainly was no rocket scientist who cared for my husband when our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter rammed the tines of her fork into his eye. For Dad and Elizabeth, it was no “tine-y” problem.

It was, of course, purely accidental. She’s a sweet child who adores her daddy. However, she is animated, and she loves to talk. So while making conversation at dinner, her arms flailing to make a point, she pierced her father’s eyeball with her salad fork.

“Owwww!” he screamed, pressing his hand to his instantly throbbing eye.

After persistent coaxing, I was finally allowed to look at the damage. There was obviously a serious problem at hand. My poor husband’s eye was punctured and trickling blood. He needed immediate medical attention. Like rats in a maze, with our daughter in tow, we drove all over our tourist-infested region in search of a hospital or walk-in clinic. Soon we were seated in a nearby emergency room. The more seriously afflicted were seen first, and in comparison to heart attacks and severed limbs, a punctured eyeball was fairly low on the totem pole. Knowing we were in for a lengthy wait, we busied a guiltless Elizabeth with coloring books and crayons and waited. She immediately started drawing a stick figure of a man with a fork protruding from his eye. Her humor didn’t go unnoticed.

“What seems to be the problem?” the male nurse asked when my hubby’s name was finally called.

“My little girl stuck a fork in my eye,” he explained.

“Any fever?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Any vomiting?”

“No, but I felt a little queasy when it happened.”

“Any diarrhea?”

“From a fork in my eye?” my husband asked, partly amused, partly flabbergasted.

“Oh, that’s right. Of course,” the nurse jotted things on the chart and muttered constantly to himself.

Next he checked my husband’s ears and throat, never looking at his eye, then turned and left the room. We assumed things would improve when the doctor got there.

“Looks like you’ve got a puncture wound here,” the doctor said after a quick exam, indicating immediate pleasure in his quick diagnosis.

“Yes, I know,” my husband said. “My daughter punctured my eyeball with a fork.”

“Nope. It couldn’t have been a fork,” the doctor said, still peering from one eye to the next.

“I’m telling you, it was a fork,” my husband said, by now becoming clearly disturbed.

“Looks more like a fishhook to me,” the doctor said, ferociously scribbling his notes.

My husband shouted, “Look, I obviously was there when this accident happened. So was my wife. My daughter stuck a fork in my eye!”

“A fork!” Elizabeth chimed in.

The doctor didn’t look up. He just kept writing.

“Does your husband have a drinking problem?” he asked me.

“What?” I asked. “No, he doesn’t have a drinking problem. He hardly ever takes a drink.”

By now Dad and daughter were headed for the door. I followed closely at their heels. We stopped by the desk and informed the secretary that since we’d received no service, we had no intention of paying the bill.

“Drinking problem,” Elizabeth muttered, shaking her head like an adult rather than a child who had stabbed her daddy’s eye.

As we headed out the door, the nurse stopped us once again.

“Here,” he said, handing me a business card. “Please take this. And think about taking your little girl to Al-Anon.”

On the card were the telephone numbers for the local human services office and the nearest chapter of AA. I couldn’t believe what was going on! We were nearly at our car when we noticed a different nurse waving her arms frantically to get our attention.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” she said.


“I am so sorry. The receptionist mixed up your chart with someone else’s. You were mistaken for a family where the father had repeatedly gotten drunk and drummed up a list of ailments a mile long,” she explained. “Please, sir, accept our apologies and come back inside.”

Everyone makes mistakes; we all have. We’ve always tried to practice the philosophy of forgiving and forgetting, so we went back into the hospital.

After waiting just a couple of minutes, the same male nurse came back out for my husband, greeting him with a smile and a profuse apology.

“It’s okay,” my husband said to him. “I just wish someone would do something for my incredible eye pain.”

After we were made comfortable once again in a different examining room, we awaited the return of the doctor. When he arrived, he looked at my husband’s chart and promptly asked how long his sinuses had been bothering him.

“They’re never going to fix Daddy!” Elizabeth cried.

We quickly and quietly got up and walked out. There would be no looking back. There would be no going back. And there would obviously be no treatment for Dad’s eye tonight.

A couple of days later when we were safely back at home, my husband, accompanied by Elizabeth, visited our family doctor.

“What seems to be the problem?” the doctor asked.

Elizabeth interjected quickly, “He has a drinking problem. What can we do to fix him?”

Kimberly A. Ripley

More stories from our partners