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A crushed toe might seem like a small thing, but it could have big ramifications.
Accidents happen and last weekend daughter three dropped a desk on my big toe as we tried a bit of home restructuring. It was extremely painful. I cried.
Only son was immediately on the case, designing a get well card which combined total concern for my well being with a small dose of useful advice. “I hope you get better soon. I love you so much. I’d trade the pain with you and I just have one question. Why did you not ask anyone for help?” said the card.
As I was lying with a bag of frozen peas on my foot, contemplating a six-hour stint at A & E – for surely my toe was broken – it hit me that this could be really bad news. A broken toe, says Google, can take several weeks to heal. I could be limping around for ages and I wouldn’t be able to drive. The kids would be able to get to school if my partner dropped them in the morning, but how would they get home? They are all at different schools and the schools are not well linked transport wise – the hazards of living in the countryside.
I glanced at my work calendar. There were loads of work events lined up which involved walking…a lot – and fast. My life is made up of a series of deadlines which I am constantly on the point of breaking. Not the ones involving producing work; the ones involving being places at certain times. The wiggle room around these times is extremely fine, particularly if you factor in teenagers going awol when they are supposed to be being picked up, schools letting your child’s class out 15 minutes late due to Johnny talking too much, people informing you at the last minute that they are supposed to be dressed as an ancient Greek etc, etc. If the train breaks down, if there is no space to park the car, etc, etc, if people insist on doing the Tour de France course or driving a tractor at 3.30-ish, the whole thing is in danger of going to pot.
I looked at my partner. “This could be bad,” I said, hopping to the bathroom. Daughter three had been overcome by guilt and gone into hiding. Other children were offering me hot chocolate, etc. I reconsidered. This could perhaps be very, very good. Four to six weeks of not having to go anywhere outside of a hopping radius. I work from home so I could still get things done. I just wouldn’t have to rush around going to meetings, etc. It could almost be like a sabbatical and I’ve been dreaming of that for decades.
But if just one crushed toe could have such an impact, I wondered what about other more serious accidents, illnesses or events? The fragility of life was laid bare. When the family routine just about works you can get by, but if just one thing goes awry or one key cog in the wheel goes down the whole centre falls apart. For many people that happens daily.
I woke up the next morning and, though my toe had gone purplish and was twice the size, I was able to wiggle it. Relief washed over the family. The usual manic rush of family life continued.