Tales of a broken toe



What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Anyone who’s ever stubbed a toe knows the answer to this one — pain. Lots of pain. The kind of pain that justifies swearing in front of your children. Pain that, in my case, radiated from a broken toe.

I’ve never broken a bone before. I remember envying my accident-prone friends as a child. I would draw my name on their impressive plaster casts and beg to try out their crutches, wishing that I were as clumsy as they were. It took a while, but I got my wish, cast and all. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

So, I broke my first bone in my late 40s. As body parts go, I chose a seemingly insignificant bone to break. Nothing glamorous about a broken pinky toe. I wish I could say that I broke my toe in a dramatic skiing accident, or while escaping from a charging bear, or at least in a workplace accident involving heavy machinery and a negligent co-worker. But no, I bumped into a bookcase at home. Or maybe I should say I was attacked by a malevolent bookcase in the dark recesses of my house. No, I’m fooling myself. There’s nothing interesting about stubbing one’s toe really hard on a bookcase.

The resulting injury did have some dramatic qualities to it. My toe wasn’t simply swollen or throbbing — it was going sideways. All the other toes were going north, and my right pinky toe was going east. Due east. Individuality is not an asset in a toe. Toes are meant to conform — to toe the line, as it were. My nonconformist toe had to be quashed — “reduced,” they call it in medical terms. After its brief taste of freedom, my errant toe had to be reduced into submission, bent and twisted into its proper place, and taped to its fellows in a weeks-long time out until it can agree to stay put and not go travelling again. It’s tough being a toe.

My toe is still thinking about compliance. The cast is gone, and I’m fashionably attired in a classy post-op shoe, a vast improvement! I have to say, I didn’t tolerate the cast very well. I’ve always thought I could handle pain pretty well, but I’m starting to have second thoughts. I may in fact be a wimp. My foot itched, the cast rubbed on my shin, the bottom of my foot cramped up, my toes would all turn purple — my poor husband heard it all. But the worst part was, I couldn’t drive. When you’re the family chauffeur, losing your license for whatever reason causes a ripple effect throughout the entire family. School, dentist appointments, grocery runs — life does not stop just because Mom has a broken toe. Luckily, I have a wonderful husband and a bunch of sweet friends and co-workers, who drove me home from work, took me to the recycling center and made sure my kids didn’t become truants in the month I was unable to drive. Amazing how much trouble one insignificant little toe can cause.

So the malevolent bookcase no longer inhabits its old spot in the hallway. It’s been banished to my son’s bedroom, never to block another doorway or obstruct the path of any more unsuspecting victims. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the vulnerability of poor, underappreciated toes, and have taken to avoiding dining room chair legs and dark rooms fraught with unseen peril. I’m older and wiser in the ways of the toe, and hence more careful to protect my feet. Then I look out the window at my son on the rope swing in the backyard, swinging around and crashing into the tree at top speed. What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? My son’s too young to appreciate the question.


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