In May, 1991 I collected the ball on the half-forward flank at Cleve Oval, lifted my eyes goalward and ran.
Or, attempted to run, as an opponent tackled me and stomped on my right foot, accidently. A man of bellowing mirth, and ample girth, he was not inaccurately nicknamed Gut.
I’m unsure of the physics, but am certain mass, force, and pressure all rushed together unthinkingly and briefly as elemental energies do and broke my metatarsal and phalange.
I stopped like the coyote hitting a painted-on tunnel the roadrunner has just disappeared down.
My internal headline was
Gut mashes foot
In my new job I had to take a bunch of kids to Adelaide in about a month and needed to upgrade my licence, so later that night, hobbling about my weatherboard home, I rang my dear friend Gareth to say Sunday’s bus-driving lesson about the noiseless, wide streets of Kimba was off.
Crutches came and went, I got my bus licence for the surprisingly agile, if boxy Toyota Coaster, the Adelaide trip happened and I played footy a month or so later.
I forgot about my foot.
Not long after Max was born in 2010 I jogged through Moseley Square one afternoon and returning home my foot had a secret, invisible steam iron pressed to it, as if it was a GAZMAN shirt on job interview morning. It was searing and burning and as tender as expensive mince.
A few weeks later sitting in a medical clinic the doctor peered at the x-ray and asked, “Have you ever broken your foot?”
“Yeah. In 1991. Playing footy. A big bloke stepped on it.” I supplied extra detail. The doctor looked interested. “His name was Gut.”
Comparing my extremity to a formerly wayward chook, she then commented, “I’m afraid your foot’s now coming home to roost.”
Last Friday just after seven Kerry took me to Noarlunga Hospital. It’s a low, flat building that seems like it belongs in the Riverland, or on the Sunshine Coast near a surf club.
In a small office I met with the anaesthesiologist. He suggested a local would be fine but offered a general too.
On Family Feud a team captain will sometimes blurt, “Play!” before Grant Denyer has closed his overly tiny mouth.
With even quicker speed I yapped, “General.” I didn’t even glance at my family.
Subconsciously informed by my previous Australian operating theatre experience this decision was supersonic. Alex was born by emergency Caesarean section at Flinders Hospital and I was there, sat and chaperoned on a stool by Kerry’s head.
A blue sheet shielded me from the birthing action, but on the ceiling a large mirror reflected everything. I didn’t want to faint, so I didn’t look at that mirror, that all-seeing mirror, like Indiana Jones when the face-melting evil spirits fly about after the Ark of the Covenant is opened by the galactically stupid Nazis.
So, yes, I didn’t wish to unintentionally catch a glimpse of my filleted toe, or an electric saw, or a mallet.
I had no wish to spectate.
And yes, I’m comparing a Caesarean section with minor foot surgery.
I’ve not left the house in four days.
I thought I’d spend time watching old DVDs like Goodfellas or The Royal Tenenbaums but I’ve barely turned on the TV. Daytime viewing is beyond grim with the exception of Judge Judy who cuts through the nonsense quicker than a salt-and-pepper deputy principal, or a New Jersey detective.
Instead, I’ve had my foot elevated over the couch-arm like a languid teenager (with a decidedly unyouthful hoof) while I’ve re-read the Lay of the Land from the Frank Bascombe series by Richard Ford and luxuriated in its finely-observed narration.
When this middle-aged introspection was settling too heavy upon my solitary soul, I listened to a podcast featuring Merrick and Rosso, the former Triple J (and Nova) radio duo for whom there’s still enormous affection, twenty years on. They reminisced about Tight Arse Tuesday and Choice Bro TAFE, and I laughed like a pirate.
It’s been good to shut out the world a while. No work, No driving. The weather only glimpsed out the window in a second-hand, oddly-removed way.
Tomorrow, I’m back to the hospital for a post-operative appointment.
My recovery’s going well, and I’ll soon be back, not on a half-forward flank, but out of the house, and in the world, with a foot that’s good for a few more decades of stroll and grunt and run.