Recently, I listened to a newspaper article on my Audm app. Audm collects well-written articles in well-circulated publications written by gifted journalists and writers. Then someone, maybe a voice actor or another journalist with magical pipes, reads the essay aloud. Think, Audible or books on tape, only for newspapers.
The article I listened to was called “The Bullet in My Arm,” written for The Atlantic in 2018 by Elaina Plott.
Elaina grew up in Alabama and never had a problem with guns. Guns were hunting tools—they were entertainment with a nod towards the romantic. Guns were woven into her culture as much as Bible stories were threaded through everyday vernacular. To Elaina, guns never posed a problem until one day, while sitting at a red light, someone driving by pulled out a gun and shot her.
She heard a pop and then felt a burning sensation in her arm. Elaina watched as blood bloomed through her brand-new blue dress and wondered if it would stain.
At the hospital, Elaina learned that the small bullet from a .22-Caliber, had burrowed too far into her muscle and that it would cause more damage to take it out than to leave it in. So, she left it in her arm.
The only trouble the bullet causes Elaina now is at the airport when she has to whip out her doctor’s note explaining to the TSA agent why the metal detectors wail whenever she walks through baggage check.
I’m relating to this story because the more I dig into my Great-aunt Glenna and, by extension, my relatives, the more painful it seems to be. The information I find has very little to do with my Great-aunt directly, so I wonder, do I pursue this? Do I take the bullet out of my family history’s arm, or will it do more damage if I explore?
So, this is where I am.
How do I use this new information to guide what Glenna or her mother might have been up against, emotionally, financially, culturally? I wonder, will the information explain how and why she ended up in an insane asylum? Or does this story go in a different direction altogether?
I worry, could extracting these fragments, creating an exit wound for my relatives’ life be too damaging, and way too much for me to handle? And should just let it lie?
*What do you think? Have an opinion? Tell me!