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Simon: Small injuries can reveal truths about ourselves

It happened in the blink of an eye.

I was in Wisconsin visiting my father. We were getting geared up to head out on the lake on his pontoon, loading up the boat with sunscreen and towels and snacks and cold drinks, all the essentials for a glorious summer afternoon.

I went to step off the boat on to the aluminum dock.


I slammed my foot directly into the side of the dock.

I yelled out a word that technically wasn’t obscene yet still not fit to print here. Because it was in that moment, I knew.

I had broken my toe.

I don’t know the “names” of the toes the way I know fingers – thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky. Sure there’s big toe and pinky toe, but what in the world are the three in the middle? I have clearly broken the toe equivalent of my ring finger (ring toe?) on my left foot.

If you’re like me, and you’ve broken toes before, you know that there is generally very little you can do for a broken toe. I did not go to urgent care, I self-diagnosed based on pain, bruising, and my own dumb luck that I cannot get off of a boat without slamming my foot into the pier.

Buddy tape made it hurt even more, which means I was probably wrapping it too tightly. For the most part, though, it’s not too bad. Until I push off unexpectedly and I end up letting out a little yelp of pain.

There is this ridiculous feeling that we have when we are sick or injured. We look back on previous days, the days before we had the injury or the illness, with nostalgic regret.

“Oh, remember yesterday, when I could barely even feel my toe? Oh, how I long for those days again!”

It is the same when that first cold of the season hits you. Your nose is both hopelessly clogged and endlessly runny at the same time, and you shame yourself for taking your ability to breathe and smell for granted.

This is where I am now. Floating in a sea of regret that I have taken my ring toe for granted all these years.

My Mom was a master at magnifying those regrets. I remember vividly the first time I smashed up a toe. I was 8 years old, getting something out of the freezer, when the doorbell rang and the dog barked, startling me. I dropped something large and frozen onto my pinky toe. I cried for hours. Man, did that hurt.

“Well, next time you’ll be more careful,” my Mom said, inspecting my toe before shrugging and busting out the buddy tape.

When I was 12, I was harassing my brother (as 12-year-olds do) and he tossed me into the closet (as teenagers do to their little sisters when said little sisters are being incredible brats). But when he closed the door to lock me in, my foot was up near the hinge. My big toe was nearly flattened.

“Well, maybe don’t bother your brother like that,” Mom said, although that time she did take me for an X-ray, just in case it was more serious than a broken toe. Nope. Just the toe. Buddy tape to the rescue again.

This recent broken toe has taught me something about myself. Something that I think, deep down inside, I already knew but was trying not to admit.

I am an incredible cry baby.

My body has endured surgeries and stitches and broken arms. I’ve been through labor and C-sections and biopsies. But I’ve broken my toe and you’d think this is the end. I could not be a bigger baby about this if I tried. It’s almost embarrassing.

Minor injuries certainly seem magnified when you are otherwise healthy. They are especially magnified when it’s summer and all you want to do it head outside and wander, my favorite pastime.

As summer winds down and most of us are still out and about in sandals and flip flops, without the stronger foot protection that we normally wear in cold weather months, I implore all of you. Watch your step.

It can happen in the blink of an eye. You find out you’re a wimp.

• Marney Simon is the editor of the Morris Herald-News. She can be reached at

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