It was the toe that finally brought me down. Specifically, the fourth toe on the right foot. Kind of embarrassing for a 6-foot, 200-pound guy who made his living teaching martial arts for over 40 years, but there you have it. A damned toe; something you take for granted your whole life until it goes kaput.
During the late summer months, I began to notice a certain amount of pain in both my right leg and foot when I would go for walks around the neighborhood. It started off not too badly, just enough to make me occasionally grimace, so I thought nothing of it. Mr. Macho. Right.
Nor did I think much of the fact that my toe was beginning to assume a strange hue, a hue that’s normally only seen on overripe bananas.
When it got to the point where I had to use a cane to walk around and the pain was beginning to test my resolve, I finally caved in to the advice of friends and loved ones and allowed myself to be hauled off to the local purgatory, aka The Hospital. Keep in mind this was really the first time I had been to a hospital in, oh, let’s say, 37 years. The last time I went surgeons were still smoking during surgery.
So, the bright red and white meat wagon pulls up, they wheel me out on a gurney (which I’d always assumed was something an organ grinder and his monkey used, but no) and give me the bumpy ride to the hospital, all the while an EMT sitting next to me in the back asking such pertinent questions as “What is your religion?”, “What is your favorite color?” and “Do you have an emergency contact?” (“Philosophical Taoist”, “black” and “Satan”, respectively).
We finally arrive at the body shop where I promptly wait a few hours for a room. They finally wheel me up to the 3rd floor, banging into everyone and everything along the way. When they finally get me into a bed some doctor with more than a passing resemblance to Groucho Marx comes stalking into the room, looks at my toe, winces and hurries back out. I was expecting Harpo and Chico to follow soon after and wasn’t disappointed. In fact, they had most of the staff take a tour through my room to see my wondrous toe. I think a few Shriners slipped in as well.
“It has to go”, I was told.
Well, to me It wasn’t an It. It was my bloody toe! I had grown sort of fond of it over the years. We had been on many adventures together and he’d always been there for me, along with his four brothers.
But, not wanting to have inconvenienced the ambulance driver and the hospital staff, I agreed, with the stipulation that they give me some good drugs to sort of tide me over the rough parts.
Let me tell you: morphine is great stuff. When I was on the operating table they told me to count backward from 10.
“10 … 9 … 4 … blue …”
… to be continued …